Meet the Alders

Get to know Cavalier “Chevy” Johnson, Khalif Rainey and Chantia Lewis, the newest members of the Milwaukee Common Council.

Three new members joined the Milwaukee Common Council as a result of the April 5 election, and already they’ve made their mark. All three were among the Council members who committed early to elect Ald. Ashanti Hamilton the new council president, ousting Michael Murphy. The move was accomplished by an alliance of the council’s six black aldermen and three South Siders. All three new aldermen were endorsed by the progressive Wisconsin Working Families Party, whose state director is County Supervisor Marina Dimitrejevic.

Johnson-headshot-WEB2nd District: Cavalier “Chevy” Johnson

He worked in the office of Mayor Tom Barrett as a community liaison, and left that job to run for alderman. Before the mayor’s office he was at the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board, working with young people and adults entering the work force. He also worked for the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee and the North Avenue Community Development Corp.  At the Y, he was with the Sponsor-a-Scholar program (now run by the Boys & Girls Club), which prepares underserved students for college. He participated in that program himself as a teenager. Johnson graduated from Bay View High School in Milwaukee and from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he got a degree in political science. The 2nd, a Northwest Side district, was formerly represented by Ald. Joe Davis, who left office for an ultimately unsuccessful run for mayor. Johnson beat Davis aide Sherman Morton on April 5. On the election website Ballotpedia, he lists crime reduction and prevention, and unemployment, as his most important issues. Johnson is engaged to be married.

Rainey-headshot-WEB7th District: Khalif Rainey

A former Milwaukee County supervisor and staff member in the district office of U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, Rainey says in his Common Council bio that he was born and raised in Milwaukee’s 53206 district. He was educated at Milwaukee Public Schools and graduated from Riverside University High School, making him at least the fourth Riverside grad on the Council. (Others: Milele Coggs, Nik Kovac and Hamilton.) According to an online article from the Milwaukee Courier, his childhood was tough, and his family was touched by drug addiction and violence, but he received a $20,000 college scholarship from Milwaukee philanthropist Jack Rosenberg, with the stipulation that he return to Milwaukee and contribute to the community after college. After graduating from Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a historically black college, he did return and soon got an internship in the office of Hamilton, who had been a high school teacher of his. The 7th District straddles the city’s North and West sides and is centered around Sherman Boulevard and Capitol Drive. Rainey is married and has one child.

Lewis-headshot-WEB9th District: Chantia Lewis

She joined the Air Force right out of Bay View High School – in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to the Shepherd Express. She has a nonprofit called One Step At a Time, which helps people find jobs and advance in their careers, and she’s on the national board of 9to5, the organization that advocates for the rights of women in the workforce. In the past she’s been an administrator of a day care and a Realtor, and she was recently ordained as a minister. She studied criminal justice as Mount Mary College and dreamed of being a corporate lawyer, she says, but changed her course after helping a young woman get started in life. She got her degree from Alverno College. She’s the only candidate to unseat an incumbent alderman in the April election – she beat Robert Puente, the former cop who’d represented the Northwest Side district since 2004. Urban Milwaukee reported on April 19 that it was Lewis changing her vote from Murphy that allowed Hamilton to win the Common Council presidency. During her campaign she hammered hard on the decline of the Northwest Side since the shuttering of the Northridge Mall in 2003. She also posted a series of engaging “Candidate Chronicles” – mostly selfie-video — on a site called She’s married and has three kids.



Tom Tolan is managing editor at Milwaukee Magazine, where he's worked since January 2016. He spent 24 years at The Milwaukee Journal and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as a copy editor, assistant metro editor and reporter. He lives in Shorewood.