Why I Love Milwaukee: Mayor Tom Barrett Loves Walking the City’s Grassroots

“In Milwaukee’s neighborhoods, I get to see the humanity and the love people have for their families and their neighborhoods.”

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WHO: The son of a salesman and a substitute teacher, Tom Barrett is now the longest-tenured mayor of any major American city. For most of his childhood, he lived in a Washington Heights home 150 yards away from where he lives now. In good times and in challenging ones, he feels most connected with his hometown when walking its sidewalks and streets.

WHERE: Along Hi Mount Boulevard, Washington Heights

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I like to get my steps in every day. Every summer – although this summer we’re not doing it right now – I walk through as many neighborhoods in the city of Milwaukee as I can.

In every single neighborhood, I find people who love their children and want them to get a good education. In every single neighborhood, I find people who want to have jobs where they can support their families. And in every single neighborhood, I find people who want to be safe.

Those three common denominators are universal. There’s this belief in every neighborhood that, “Yes, we have our challenges, but there’s still something that keeps me here and makes me want to improve it.”

Neighborhoods are going to be incredibly important in moving forward. Whether it is people’s very real economic challenges or the need to create a better working relationship between our residents and law enforcement, it’s going to be done at the grassroots level. That’s where the neighborhoods come in. Neighborhoods are, by definition, the grassroots.

In Milwaukee’s neighborhoods, I get to see the humanity and the love people have for their families and their neighborhoods. It gives me energy. It gives me more hope for the future.

– As told to Adam Rogan


This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s August issue

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Adam is a journalist who recently returned to his Wisconsin home after graduating from Drake University in December 2017. He interned with MilMag in the summer of 2015 and has been a continual contributor ever since. Follow him on social media @Could_Be_Rogan