Leaders, historians reflect on Cavalier Johnson's historic victory as Milwaukee's first elected Black mayor

NOW: Leaders, historians reflect on Cavalier Johnson’s historic victory as Milwaukee’s first elected Black mayor

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A new chapter in Milwaukee political leadership began following Cavalier Johnson's victory as the first elected Black mayor of the city.

"This is kind of a new era for Milwaukee political leadership, without any doubt," Milwaukee historian John Gurda told CBS 58. Gurda said Johnson's win marks the continuation of a seismic shift in Milwaukee politics.

"Back in the sixties, back in the 1970s it was a majority white community, but almost exclusively white political leadership, so this really is a major turnaround," Gurda explained.

City Development Commissioner Lafayette Crump said Johnson's leadership can help bring issues affecting people of color to the forefront of policy discussions at City Hall.

"It's a real opportunity to make sure that the kinds of issues that are unique to people of color are elevated and that there's a recognition of what those challenges are," Crump said in an interview.

He added it also has symbolic importance for the Black community.

"To see a person who looks like them hold the chief executive office in the city of Milwaukee is a really big deal," Crump said. "And I think it's only going to be inspirational for a number of people."

"I was ecstatic," Dr. Eve Hall, president and CEO of Greater Milwaukee Urban League, said about watching Johnson's victory.

She echoed the importance of his taking hold of the office of mayor.

"It also just continues to highlight the positive that comes from our African American community and the fact that we do have very strong leaders," Hall said. "So often times it's the negative that is highlighted."

Someone who has known Johnson since his days at Bay View High School is Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley, who is one year older than Johnson.

"Neither one of us thought we would be in these positions," Crowley said. "Seeing both of us where we are today, it's not lost on me when you think about the historic moment, but I think we both understand that it's about how we move forward."

Johnson is also the city's first millennial mayor, marking a generational shift at City Hall as well.

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