History month is an opportunity to celebrate and recognize those African Americans who are working to improve conditions within our community. Often times we highlight those who have achieved national prominence but, there are many African Americans right here at home who are making history as well. One of those history makers is Milwaukee Common Council President Alderman Willie Hines.
First elected in 1996, Alderman Hines has been returned to office four times by the constituents of his district. For the past two terms he has been elected by his colleagues to serve as President of the Common Council, making history as the only African American to ever be selected by his colleagues to serve two four year terms as President of the City of Milwaukee Common Council. Serving as Common Council President has assured Milwaukee’s African Americans that one of the city’s top two leaders is African American.
In addition to serving as Common Council President, Alderman Hines also serves as the Chairman of the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee (HACM). He is the longest serving African American to serve in that capacity, which is critical to the community because of the percentage of HACM residents who are African American. As Chairman of HACM, Alderman Hines has worked to bring hundreds of millions of dollars to Milwaukee to improve the housing stock for public housing residents. Under Alderman Hines’ leadership, residents in Lapham Park, Townhomes at Carver Park, Hillside, Highland, Cherry Court, Parklawn, Northlawn and Westlawn have all seen major overhauls. As a result of HACM’s success under Alderman Hines leadership, the city is recognized as one of the strongest and most respected housing authorities in the country. As a product of public housing, Alderman Hines knows that no matter a person’s economic situation or condition, quality, safe housing is a human right that should never be denied.
In addition to his work at HACM, Alderman Hines has also prioritized family supporting jobs as a center piece of his public service. Under his leadership, the Common Council has forwarded a number of development projects that have created family sustaining jobs and are accessible by public transit. One of those projects, Century City (formerly A.O. Smith), is being developed in the heart of the African American community and will act as a catalyst for thousands of neighborhood jobs in the future. Other successful job creating projects include the Menomonee Valley and The Brewery (formerly the Pabst). President Hines’ leadership has ensured that African American businesses and workers share in the success by pushing for inclusion in all public contracting aspect of these developments. When it was clear that African Americans were not being provided their fair share, it was Alderman Hines who initiated the call for a study to determine how this problem could be solved. The result is a new system of minority participation that will put more African Americans to work and help build capacity for minority owned firms so that they can grow as the economy grows.
Every day our city is making history as President Hines is the highest ranking African American official in the Milwaukee. He is not only a history maker, but he is using his position to advance the cause of African Americans in our community. Who knows, if the voters of the 15th District choose to honor Alderman Hines with a fifth term and he continues as Common Council President, we may be a recall election away from seeing just our second African American in the Mayor’s office. For Milwaukee’s African American community, our greatest history is just over the horizon.