Updated at 11:17 a.m. CT
On Tuesday, the Milwaukee Common Council confirmed Griselda Aldrete as the new executive director of the Fire and Police Commission (FPC). The final vote of the council was: 10 in favor, three abstentions, one no.
Mayor Tom Barrett nominated Aldrete to serve as the head of the Milwaukee FPC. The nomination passed the Public Safety and Health Committee on a three-to-one vote with Alderwoman Nakiya Dodd voting against and Alderwoman Chantia Lewis abstaining.
While there are concerns from some community members that they have not had the chance to get to know Aldrete, she comes with a lot of support.
Griselda Aldrete began the council committee meeting on Monday by outlining the three tenets that she lives by: “Advancing education, supporting quality, and embracing diversity,” Aldrete says.
While Aldrete says she was born in Milwaukee, as a child, she lived in Mexico for a while with her Mexican father and El Salvadorian mother. She returned to Milwaukee, graduated from St. Joan Antida High School, Marquette University and the University of Nebraska before attending Marquette Law School.
Aldrete says everything in her professional life has prepared her to take on the role of executive director of the FPC.
“I have worked as an investigative reporter at a key Milwaukee magazine. As a social worker at Child Protective Services at La Causa. Director of special events at UMOS. As a teacher in criminal justice at a number of local universities and colleges,” Aldrete says.
The Fire and Police Commission is responsible for the hiring and firing of police officers and handling disciplinary issues. One thing the FPC has come under fire for the police departments chase policy.
Aldrete says that if approved, she’ll work to ensure that both she and the FPC are transparent as to improve community relations and build trust. She says she will also work to let staff know how much they are appreciated.
“You have my commitment that I will fight for my staff to make sure that they feel valued and that we are cohesive. The department doesn’t just lay on the executive director, it lays on the staff too. And we have to go in there and also look at how are they feeling because I have to believe that at this point, they’re also need[ing] some empowerment too. They need to feel from me that I’m going to fight for them,” Aldrete says.
FPC staffing levels have fluctuated. Right now, the 20 or so employees are split between three floors at city hall.
As far as commissioners are concerned, the FPC is facing challenges there too. Currently, there are six commissioners — there should be nine. Mayor Barrett has not been able to get any recent nominees through as there is disagreement between him and the common council on how the nomination process should work. Also, one of the six commissioner's term ended around two years ago but they have continued to serve.
Throughout the nearly two-hour meeting, Aldrete faced a number of questions from members of the common council. Alderwoman Nikiya Dodd, who voted no, spent time working in the nonprofit world and has concerns about how Aldrete will operate in a different climate.
“You may be faced with the mayor telling you, 'Either you’re going to do it this way as far as drafting your budget or you can be dismissed.' And that’s real. I still need to hear how will you differentiate yourself and be that individual in those situations? That’s what I want to hear is how do you stand up to your boss who has the power to have you here today and gone tomorrow?” Dodd says.
Aldrete says the only way to find out how she will respond is to confirm her.
While lots of people showed up in support of Aldrete and spoke to her character as a person and leader, there were some community members who wanted more time to get to know Aldrete. Markasa Tucker is with the African American Roundtable.
“People really wanted to hear what specifically besides facilitating because that was a word that you used quite often on Wednesday. Except for just facilitating information, what are the actual changes? Even without assessment, just coming in and seeing some of the things, what were those specific things that would get changed?” Tucker says.
Aldrete’s nomination was made public about three weeks ago.
Tucker’s statement prompted a motion to hold the nomination until September but that motion failed. In the end, Aldrete was confirmed by the full common council on Tuesday. She replaces Lakeisha Butler, who left the position when she and her family moved to another state.