Tony Snell, volunteer and staffing coordinator at VISIT Milwaukee, has been named chair of the City of Milwaukee Equal Rights Commission. Earlier this year, Snell was appointed by Mayor Tom Barrett to serve a second three-year term and was elected vice chair of the ERC, which seeks to promote equality and equity through education, enforcement and community engagement, according to its website.
Snell has worked at VISIT Milwaukee for almost four years. He also served as senior director of volunteer management for the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee, the nonprofit organization responsible for hosting the 2020 Democratic National Convention. The event was expected to bring 50,000 visitors to Milwaukee this summer, but was scaled back to an all-virtual convention due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The ERC has been around for 76 years, originally founded as the Mayor’s Committee on Inter-Racial Relations. It took on its current moniker in 1994 and became the first point of contact for concerns and complaints relating to employment and housing discrimination issues in Milwaukee. In 2009, the ERC's model shifted from complaint investigation to one that relies on "oversight and accountability activities, community collaboration and partnerships with private, non-profit and academic institutions for prevention, education and training purposes."
"As chair I will not only continue the work we have begun, but further enhance our work to ensure that every single Milwaukeean and visitor has the support and opportunities that are necessary to live their best life," said Snell. In his first official speaking engagement this week, Snell announced that Milwaukee received a perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Municipality Equality Index for the third consecutive year. The index examines the inclusivity of municipal laws, policies, and services for LGBTQ people living and working nationwide. Cities are rated based on non-discrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement, and leadership's position on LGBTQ equality, according to HRC. "Milwaukee has stood up for its LGBTQ residents and municipal workers and has been in the vanguard on efforts to protect and embrace LGBTQ people," Snell said. "There is no doubt we are rolling up our sleeves, getting to work on the tough challenges and centering equity and inclusion in our city programs and projects."After becoming a member of ERC in 2016, Snell took on the task of boosting Milwaukee's equality index score from what was then 72. VISIT Milwaukee said the perfect score had played a key role in the DNC's selection of Milwaukee as host city.
"Tony has been a valued member of the VISIT Milwaukee team in addition to being a passionate activist and advocate for equal rights in the Milwaukee community," said Peggy Williams-Smith, president and CEO of VISIT Milwaukee. "This appointment comes as no surprise to anyone who knows Tony and his incredible work to make our city a fair and safe place for all, and we look forward to seeing that work continue on behalf of Milwaukee and its residents."