The Milwaukee Common Council has appointed Patricia McManus, president and chief executive officer of the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin, Inc., as interim commissioner of the city's Health Department.
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The city's health commissioner position has been vacant since Jan. 11, when former commissioner Bevan Baker stepped down. Baker’s resignation
came after information surfaced that the families of children who tested positive for elevated lead levels in their blood may not have been properly notified over the last three years.
At that time, Mayor Tom Barrett recommended that former health commissioner Paul Nannis be interim department administrator. But on Monday, Barrett withdrew his recommendation because of a lack of support among aldermen.
The council voted 13-1 on Tuesday to approve McManus’s appointment. Ald. Terry Witkowski, who asked pointed questions about her previous public health work, cast the lone 'no' vote. Ald. Michael Murphy abstained. Murphy said he didn’t agree with the speed at which the council moved forward with a new appointment.
McManus said she would take a leave of absence from the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin to serve as interim commissioner.
During questioning from aldermen on Tuesday, McManus touted her background, including the nearly 30 years she’s worked in her current role.
McManus said that, while she would be responsible to the council and mayor’s office in the interim commissioner role, she would not take “a loyalty oath” to them.
Milwaukee Ald. Tony Zielinski applauded her track record of helping increase transparency on the city's lead issues.
“If we’re going to get someone who is going to turn that department around, we need someone with a track record of standing up to the health department and saying, ‘You were wrong,'" he said.
The council's appointment requires Barrett's approval.