by Thomas E. Mitchell, Jr.
Milwaukee County Supervisor and 10th District State Assembly Candidate Elizabeth Coggs isn’t depending on her well-known last name and the contributions of her family—past and present—in Wisconsin politics to propel her to victory.
After her recent stop at the Community Journal offices to talk about her campaign and platform, Coggs revealed she was going home to change clothes and knock on more doors.
“I’m not depending on my name in this race,” said the long-time county supervisor. “I’m out there campaigning; hitting doors and talking to people.”
Coggs is one of three candidates who is “hitting the doors” before squaring off in the state primaries Sept. 14. The other candidates are Stephanie Findley, an office manager for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 48; and Sherman L. Hill, who recently retired as executive director of Harambee Ombudsman Project, Inc.
Nor does Coggs want to just “fill a seat,” especially if its a seat held by the popular and legendary state Representative Polly Williams who will retire after 30 years in the state legislature in December.
The county supervisor wants to have the type of positive impact on state policy—especially as it pertains to Black constituents—that Williams and Coggs’ parents, Isaac and Marcia Coggs, had during their historic tenures in the state legislature.
During the interview, Coggs said Williams’ retirement presented an opportunity for her to have an impact on the issues facing the state and the 10th Assembly district, not to mention Wisconsin’s Black community as a whole, the majority of which are located in the southeast portion of the state.
Coggs noted such issues as unfunded state mandates, unemployment, equal distribution of regional transit funding, state income maintenance, health care reform, crime reduction and job creation and employment programs that can help reduce crime; and the fair treatment of day cares—especially the “mom and pop” run facilities—that have come under state scrutiny due to revelations of misuse of state funds by what Coggs called “two bad apples” in the industry.
She praised the retiring Williams, saying she will leave an indelible footprint on the state legislature as a trailblazer and pioneer on a number of issues, especially education where she is revered as the “Mother of Parental School Choice.”
“What I (would) bring is 22 years of experience in elective office,” said Coggs who is currently chair of the County Board’s Combined Community Services Board and the Finance and Audit Committees. She also sits on the Parks, Recreation and Culture and Health and Human Needs committees.
“I bring energy and the ability to do things out of the box,” Coggs continued. “I pride myself in going beyond the scope of my job description as an elected official that impacts education and living. I think my record speaks for itself. I’m a hard worker who is dedicated to the community.”
For the past 16 years, Coggs has sponsored the Martin Luther King, Jr. Back-to-School Festival. The event attracts school age children and their parents for a day of fun, food, music and free school supplies at the Martin Luther King Community Center.
Coggs also counts among her attributes the ability to listen and work with a diverse group of individuals and groups from grass roots to corporate.
Seeing the economy as the biggest issue confronting the 10th district and the state as a whole, Coggs believes her governmental experience will allow her to tackle this and other challenges immediately without the need for a big learning curve.
Health care reform is also a crucial issue to Coggs, who stressed the state needs to keep it intact. She added the state’s general assistance medical program also needs to remain in place until President Barack Obama’s health reform initiative is launched.
Environmental issues are also part of the Coggs agenda. She feels strongly about leaving a positive “green legacy” for future generations. She noted the need for creating more sustainable energy use and wants to be a leader in that area.
Coggs supports quality education for all children. As for educational reform, the Assembly candidate said true reform is when “all parties are sitting at the table” and not split apart by opposing agendas.
“I’ve participated in the desegregation of the city’s public schools and I’ve seen education from a variety of perspectives,” Coggs said. “I believe what works best is a ‘back to basics’ approach.”
Coggs said she would continue to do what she has done all her life and as a county supervisor and hopefully a state legislator: “Speak to the injustices in the community.
“I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I ignored the problems.”