After spending the last 23 years in Milwaukee’s 9th District while raising two sons and being active in the community, Donna Ross is ready to do her part to give back to her community by running for alderperson.
“My first family supporting employment in Milwaukee was with Milwaukee Inner-City Congregations Allied for Hope, MICAH, a church-based community organization that does grassroots organizing,” said Ross. “That is how I learned the landscape of Milwaukee. That is how I learned how to engage with the people of Milwaukee on the ground first, then trickling up. I realized that bridging gaps and bringing people together around common interests is possible because I saw it happen for 15 years around that (MICAH) caucus table.”
Working with a diversity of people and perspectives gave Ross the insight into how common causes can bring residents from across Milwaukee together. Specifically, in the 9th district, which extends from Milwaukee’s North Side to the far Northwest Side of the city, Ross has been active in getting community insight by knocking on around 1,000 doors since last summer.
After leaving MICAH in 2008, she was appointed to serve in U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore’s 4th Congressional District Office where she worked until 2019.
“I did that for 12 years, and that perspective also shaped my view on how to engage people around issues that affect them in their communities as well,” Ross says. “Within the city and the aldermanic position in the 9th district specifically, talking to my neighbors and my community members about their concerns around the Northridge Lakes area.”
The Northridge area along with the building of a new juvenile detention facility in Northwest Milwaukee are areas of concern for residents in the 9th district. Reckless driving and safety are also issues that are prevalent in the minds of community members in that area. Ross is certain that strong feelings about both these topics coming from the people of the 9th district itself deserve to be heard, understood, and addressed.
“We are usually concerned about what we see when we look at our front windows, how our community feels, and how safe we feel in our homes,” said Ross. “Those are the types of things that shape communities. And those are the types of things that drive quality of life issues, and the quality of life issues all tie back to my wanting to run for this seat … to shape those types of policies that make people comfortable in their homes, and have something to look outside and feel good about.”
For residents who have been in their neighborhood for an extended time or plan on staying permanently, there is interest in investing in the neighborhood. Ross is hoping that those voices and approaches can be amplified to achieve the wants of the community. Through her experience with MICAH, Ross is sure there are ways to find that compromise and raise the morale and engagement that keeps neighborhoods functioning.
“My vision for a renewed 9th aldermanic district is centered around economic development, specifically in the Northridge area,” she says. “There are some ideas out there that I think may be effective, but bringing the right people to the table in a diverse community, which is so possible, is key. The safety initiative that I’m addressing specifically for me is around mental health.”
The issue of mental health is an important aspect of the conversation as it must be accounted for when considering conditions in the community. Ross’ own experience centering mental health comes from her own experience raising two sons and seeing how important it is to have mental health services in schools, as well as quality first responders to aid in crises.
“It could be meaningful to have someone like me, who has grassroots organizing experience, who has served in a Congress member’s office working directly with the constituents for 12 years by listening to their concerns, and seeing how those things are communicated and put into play,” Ross says.
“I’m currently serving as the executive assistant to the superintendent and board of education for a public school district here in Milwaukee County. So I also understand how the mental health piece plays out in our schools, and how it affects those who matriculate out of the public school system. Along with those who decide to take different paths and how that’s affected, as well. We want the people who want to be here to feel safe.”
By taking the diversity of the community’s people and opinions into account and focusing on their concerns, Ross is hoping to bring her experience, drive, and skills of connection to the table in her run for Milwaukee’s 9th district alder.
You can find out more about Donna Ross and her campaign by visiting her Facebook page here. Primary elections are on Tuesday, Feb. 21 and general elections are on April 4.