Barrett commissioner of health appointee 'ready to serve' city of Milwaukee

NOW: Barrett commissioner of health appointee ’ready to serve’ city of Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- She could be the next commissioner of health for the city of Milwaukee.

On Thursday, Jan. 28, Kirsten Johnson shared how she’d respond to issues like the pandemic and reopening schools.

Johnson told members of the Public Safety and Health Committee that it would be an honor to serve.

She said she’ll rely not only on data, but community partnerships to help the city succeed.

Johnson is the current health officer for Washington and Ozaukee counties.

Now, she said she’s ready to lead public health in the city of Milwaukee.

“I will work tirelessly to challenge racism, privilege and the political determinants of health. I will do what is right and just," said Johnson.

Councilman Khalif Rainey noted that if confirmed, she would be managing a much larger staff -- about 270 people versus the 40 she supervises now.

“So I think it will be a transition for me to rely heavily on my leadership team and my management team," she explained.

When giving thoughts on a city mask mandate, Johnson said she’d need support from Milwaukee officials and enforcers.

She called managing the pandemic in her current position a “difficult time”.

“If I were to write a masking order, for example, right now in Washington or Ozaukee counties I would venture to guess it would be thrown away," she said.

Johnson also advocates for vaccinating educators and having a safe plan before reopening schools.

Milwaukee County declared racism a public health crisis in 2019.

Johnson said she believes in social justice and is aware of the city’s disparities.

“I recognize my whiteness and my privilege. And it’s something I will always check at the door," she said.

Johnson was appointed by Mayor Tom Barrett earlier this month.

Before she takes office, she must be confirmed by the Common Council.

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