Council to push forward with health commissioner nominee after mayor withdrew appointment

Paul Nannis

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett withdrew his appointment for interim health commissioner Monday, Feb. 5, as members of the Milwaukee Common Council push forward with their own nominee amid a brewing lead scandal.

Paul Nannis was picked as a temporary replacement after Bevan Baker suddenly resigned in January amid the city's lead-testing controversy -- when it was revealed thousands of Milwaukee families may not have been properly notified if their children tested positive for high levels of lead in their blood. Nannis wasn't a popular choice among the Milwaukee Common Council. Aldermen argued he wasn't qualified, and on Monday, the mayor withdrew his nomination.

Bevan Baker

Now, the Common Council has a new nominee on its agenda: Dr. Patricia McManus. She's the current CEO of the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin.

"There are some families looking at their children going, 'Oh my God. Did I not do what I need to do to protect my child from this?' She comes in with the specific knowledge of how lead impacts families -- how lead impacts children. She's gonna come in with leadership, come in with dignity and integrity, and come in with no nonsense. Dr. McManus has that kind of passion that the community needs," Robert Miranda, activist and spokesman for Freshwater for Life Action Coalition said.

Dr. Patricia McManus

In a letter sent to the Common Council Monday, Mayor Barrett explained he's withdrawing his appointment of Nannis, saying he wasn't extended "the professional courtesies that should be afforded to an individual willing to serve."

Alderman Tony Zielinski

"We need someone with a fresh set of eyes. Mr. Nannis -- getting over a half-million dollars contracting out with that department over a number of years -- he had to have known what was going on," Alderman Tony Zielinski said.

Zielinski, who is challenging Mayor Barrett in the 2020 election, said the council will vote to appoint McManus on Tuesday and he believes there would be enough votes to challenge a veto from Barrett if there is one.

"If Ms. McManus -- Dr. McManus -- does the job we anticipate and the mayor wants to appoint someone else, good luck trying to get the council to approve his nominee," Zielinski said.

Robert Miranda

Miranda said he ultimately wants to see all of Milwaukee's lead water pipes replaced -- something Barrett agrees with.

"Justice for our children is going to be had," Miranda said.

McManus' appointment will be debated by the Common Council Tuesday, Feb. 6. In his letter, Barrett said he'll present his appointment for the permanent health commissioner in early April.