Home Wisconsin Wisconsin’s 48 Most Influential Black Leaders, Part 1

Wisconsin’s 48 Most Influential Black Leaders, Part 1


We’ve published our Black Power list every year since our founding — this is our sixth annual — and it’s become the most anticipated thing we do. Every year, I’ve intended this list to highlight the beauty of the diversity across our state. I want kids here in Wisconsin to see role models of people who are succeeding, to know that it’s possible for Black people to achieve great things here.

That’s exactly what our first five lists accomplished, and what we hope to continue with this year’s list.

We can’t pretend, though, that this is just another year. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on our communities for nearly two years now — our health and our jobs and our financial wellbeing and our education system, and all of these effects are most pronounced in our Black communities. Add to that the brighter-than-ever spotlight on the injustice of systemic racism — it’s been a tough couple years for everybody, but even more so for our Black communities.

Many have responded to this extraordinary time by expressing an authentic desire to learn more about Black people, get to know Black communities, celebrate Black excellence. That’s what this list is — and has always been — about. This list is no longer just a list. It is also an invitation — an invitation to engage, to create, to make Wisconsin a better place to attract and retain leaders of color.

We have never intended this list to be exhaustive. Obviously, no list has been, because we keep finding more and more dynamic leaders doing real work across the private, public and nonprofit sectors. This list will, however, introduce you to some people you’ve never heard of who are doing great things in other parts of the state or simply working behind the scenes, doing the work without the accolades.

It was important for us to expand the way we think about influence, and to highlight more of the people doing what it takes to improve their community. That’s one reason this list is entirely new every year — we considered anyone named on previous lists to be ineligible for this one, even though most of the people on past lists continue to wield considerable influence.

Over the next five days, I hope you learn something you didn’t know about some of the real leaders in communities throughout Wisconsin, and that we might be able to make some connections and start conversations that really move communities forward.

Henry Sanders
Publisher and CEO, Madison365

This is the first of a five-part series. Members of The Fam got this list last night — you can join now at Madison365.org/TheFam!

Timber Smith is diversity, equity and inclusion coordinator for the City of Appleton, a role he just started in June of this year. Before beginning with the city, he spent four years as the coordinator of the Veterans Resource Center and nine years as equity coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. He grew up in Milwaukee and has been living in the Fox Valley since 1992, when he arrived to study at UWO. He has a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in educational leadership and policy, both from UWO. 

Marisa Moseley is in her first season as the head women’s basketball coach at the University of Wisconsin. She came to Madison from Boston University, where she was head coach for two seasons. She led the Terriers to their first winning season in five years and was named Patriot League Coach of the Year. Moseley was an assistant coach for nine years under Coach Gino Auriemma at the University of Connecticut, a national women’s basketball powerhouse, following assistant coaching stints at Denver and Minnesota. She played for Boston University from 2000-2004. 

Kalvin Barret was appointed Dane County Sheriff in May 2021 by Governor Tony Evers. He has served as Dane County deputy sheriff and as an officer with the Sun Prairie Police Department, where he was the first Black officer on the force. Previously, he was law enforcement officer at Wisconsin State Fair Park and the faculty director of the criminal justice studies program at Madison College. Kalvin graduated with a BA from UW Sociology in 2004 where he also played football for the Badgers. 

Michael Precia is president and CEO of Fleetworthy Solutions, a Madison-based company providing fleet safety, DOT compliance and risk data consultation services. He has over 25 years of experience selling and managing sales and account management teams, delivering SaaS solutions to global organizations. Michael has held management positions at Purchasepro, Perfect Commerce, Capgemini and Sciquest. Michael is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

David Crowley is Milwaukee County Executive, the first Black person elected to that position. David grew up in Milwaukee’s 53206 neighborhood and dedicated himself to public service early. While still in high school, David served as a community justice coordinator with Urban Underground, giving him his start in community organizing. He joined AmeriCorps when he turned 18, and worked with several other community organizations including Project Return, Safe & Sound Inc., and COA Youth and Family Centers. David also worked as a legislative aide for the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors and the Wisconsin State Senate. He was elected to the State Assembly himself in 2017 and served two terms.

Cindy Bentley is executive director of People First, a statewide self-advocacy organization for people with disabilities. Born with an intellectual disability, Cindy spent much of her childhood at the Southern Wisconsin Center for the Developmentally Disabled. When she began participating in Special Olympics, she gained confidence as she worked with teammates to earn medals in tennis, track and field, and even snowshoeing. Chosen as a Global Messenger for the Special Olympics International in 2000, Cindy has had dinner at the White House with two different American presidents, traveled around the world, and given speeches in front of thousands of people.

Brian Chaney Austin is police chief in the City of Monona, the first person of color to hold that position. He was a police officer in Madison for 19 years, most recently as captain over the traffic and special services division, which includes the forensic crime scene units as well as coordination of police at large events like Freak Fest and Art Fair on the Square. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminal Justice from Illinois State University.   

Dr. Thomas Gibson is Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He served as vice president for Student Affairs and vice provost at Bowling Green State University from 2016 to 2020. In that role, he advocated for the academic and social development of students, devised institutional policies, engaged in strategic planning, and led student success efforts. Dr. Gibson also helped increase record student retention at Bowling Green State University and helped raise $8 million, in partnership with University Advancement. He has held numerous positions to enhance student success and diversity in higher education. He was associate vice president of student affairs at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. He held several roles at York College, City University of New York in New York City, including associate dean for student development. He led academic support services at Queens College/CUNY and the University of Connecticut at Stamford. Dr. Gibson has taught graduate courses in higher education, English and interdisciplinary programs at the undergraduate level. He completed his bachelor’s degree in communication from Eastern Connecticut State University, his master’s in education from University of New Haven, Conn.; and his doctorate in educational leadership in higher education at Johnson & Wales University, Providence, Rhode Island.

Dr. Jeneise Briggs is Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Coordinator for the City of Eau Claire and Eau Claire County. Dr. Briggs has a wealth of career experience creating EDI programs and fostering relationships with underrepresented communities in positions including Senior Assistant to the President for Diversity and Inclusion for Marian University in Fond du Lac, where she developed and implemented Marian University’s first strategic plan for diversity and inclusion and strengthened Marian’s image and relationship with over 15 community organizations in the Fond du Lac community. Since August 2020, Dr. Briggs has served as the Diversity and Inclusion Specialist, Law School Outreach Coordinator, for the State Bar of Wisconsin where her responsibilities included implementing, monitoring progress, and recommending adjustments in connection with the State Bar Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan and related programs. Dr. Briggs holds a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership, Administration & Policy Analysis from Edgewood College in Madison, WI; a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI; and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communications/Public Relations from Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville, Jamaica. 

Adonica Randall is president and CEO of Pewaukee-based Abaxent, LLC, the only technology solutions company that is a certified minority/woman-owned business by an African American. In the mid-1970s, she graduated with a computer science/electrical engineering degree from Missouri School of Science and Technology, a master’s degree in biomedical engineering from Marquette University and received a patent in MRI suite lighting in the 1980s. A former leader at GE Medical Systems and A. O. Smith, Randall led the Abaxent technical team that partnered with Johnson Controls on the network technology for Fiserv Forum and the COVID-19 Alternate Care Facility at State Fair Park. She also advocates for women seeking STEM careers and mentors those interested in becoming entrepreneurs. Randall is a frequent speaker on STEAM, DEIB in technology and joint venture partnerships and has been an associate professor in Alverno College’s Department of Computer Sciences.

Part 2 coming tomorrow!