Updated Friday at 10:25 a.m. CT
Newly elected Alderwoman JoCasta Zamarripa is receiving a salary from the Wisconsin Legislature and Milwaukee City Hall. In April, the Democratic state Assembly member was elected to the Milwaukee Common Council as the first Latina and first openly out member of the LGBTQ community.
Zamarripa is a member of three working committees of the Common Council, one of which is the Community and Economic Development Committee where she serves as the vice chair. There are no local laws prohibiting Zamarripa from holding both offices, according to the League of Wisconsin Municipalities. Wisconsin Ethics Commission Administrator Daniel Carlton says the commission has no jurisdiction over whether it is ethical for Zamarripa to hold both offices.
Since April, Zamarripa says she’s been directly involved in the work of the Common Council during this historic moment of debates about police accountability and how to cope with a pandemic.
“It is definitely long days and long hours in the Common Council. It has been very stressful for me, personally, and comparing the role that I have now as an alderman to the role that I am finishing up as a state representative, this job is so much harder. I have realized this now," she says.
Last Tuesday, Zamarripa authored a resolution calling on the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission to officially ban chokeholds and strangleholds by police. Despite the cascade of issues facing City Hall, Zamarripa has not vacated her seat in the state Assembly.
“We know that the Republicans are looking for any way to roll back or take away powers from the governor [Democrat Tony Evers]. And something important, is for me to stay in my seat and finish up this term to protect the governor's veto," Zamarripa says.
To override vetoes by Evers, Republicans would need a two-thirds majority or 66 seats in the Assembly. Currently, Republicans hold 63 of the 99 seats.
When asked if she is doing the work of both state Representative and Milwaukee Alderwoman, Zamarripa says yes.
“There is a lot of intersection in the work. We aren't being called into session [at the state Legislature] anymore [this year.] Most guys are on the campaign trail, so many of them are running for reelection. I am not. So if anything, I get to give more attention to the work of a state legislator right now than your average state legislator who right now is out there trying to get reelected," she says.
By holding two full-time positions, Zamarripa is receiving two full-time salaries backed by taxpayer dollars: $52,999 a year from the state, and $73,222 a year from the city. Zamarripa will continue to receive both salaries until January, which marks the end of her term in the Assembly, amounting to more than $84,000 in wages over an eight-month period.
Zamarripa represents the 8th aldermanic district. It's a working-class area that has an average household income of $30,000, which is 25% below the average household income of the city.
Zamarripa defended the dual-income in an interview with WUWM, saying that collecting two incomes is not unprecedented. She mentioned Republican state Rep. Todd Novak, who is also the mayor of Dodgeville and the first openly gay Republican of the state Legislature. Zamarripa says other lawmakers in the past have held both state and local posts simultaneously.
“I think it's unfair that I'm being criticized or attacked or questioned around this. These men have gone unchecked and continue to serve. But people want them to serve in these two capacities. I am representing and working for my community in these two capacities and only wrapping up my term in the state Assembly. And so I do find it interesting that the question would be pointed towards me, a queer Latina and not these men who have continuously and will continue to go on and represent two different roles as elected official,” she says.
Zamarripa also cited the pay equity gap for women and particularly women of color.
“Latinas make, what, 58 cents on the male dollar, while our white women counterparts make something like 75, 70 cents on the male dollar," she says. "For a piece going after me on pay, it's really disheartening. But you know, what can I do?”
When asked if Zamarripa had plans to donate a portion of her two taxpayer-funded salaries to local charities dedicated to COVID-19 relief, Zamarripa said she had not considered that as an option but was open to it.
“I will definitely look into that. I do feel that I have been able to make more donations. I feel like I have been able to be a little bit more generous,” she says.
WUWM followed up with Novak, to whom Zamarripa referred to as she defended holding two public offices.
Novak commented that state representatives holding local elected office is not uncommon. In fact, it is very common. However, he strongly questioned Zamarripa's ability to serve both the city of Milwaukee and the state.
"There's no way in Milwaukee. Jocasta Zamarripa, she just got elected to the city council in Milwaukee, and I mean, there's no way she could balance that and being in the assembly because I know that's a pretty full-time job," Novak says.
The mayor of Dodgeville is a part-time position serving a population of less than 5,000 people. Milwaukee is a municipality with almost 600,000 residents. As mayor, Novak receives an annual salary of roughly $7,000.
After her initial interview with WUWM, Zamarripa provided two additional names of those who hold multiple offices: Rep. Steve Doyle who serves as La Crosse County supervisor; former Rep. Bob Ziegelbauer who served in the Wisconsin State Assembly while holding the office of Manitowoc County executive.
WUWM is actively following up with both Doyle, Ziegelbauer, and other officials who hold local and state public office.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story referred to state Rep. Todd Novak as Tom Novak. It has been updated.