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‘Tough decision:’ Chris Abele is not seeking reelection as Milwaukee County Executive

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MILWAUKEE -- Chris Abele announced on Wednesday, Oct. 16 that he will not seek reelection as Milwaukee County Executive in April 2020. The news came as a surprise to even his staff in the office.

Chris Abele

Abele was first elected in 2011 when he finished out Scott Walker's term as County Executive. Abele was re-elected in 2012 and 2016.

Abele told FOX6 News part of this decision was personal. He said he just got married a week-and-a-half ago -- and is looking forward to spending time with his wife and three daughters. Abele said the politics of the position also played a role in his decision -- so has the "State versus Milwaukee" attitude.

"You could be forgiven for being an outsider and thinking, 'Hey, here’s a crazy idea. What if the state and Milwaukee saw themselves as partners as opposed to arbitrarily-decided enemies," Abele said. "I think a lot of people get that, I think the governor as worked hard to build that relationship. But I think there is a shared clarity -- that when Milwaukee does well, the state does well -- we’re all going to move forward."

Abele also said priorities did not always jive with politics.

"I've always thought, but I think more strongly now, it is a waste of time looking for fights and enemies as opposed to allies and solutions," Abele said.

No one can forget former President Barack Obama mispronouncing Abele's name -- or the demolition of his 100-year-old Shorewood mansion earlier this year.

"I'd be really curious to hear someone's logic on how that had anything to do with my decision not to run," Abele said.

Chris Abele

Abele did not share who he will be supporting for the April 2020 election. He said he did not seek office as a stepping stone to anything -- and does not plan to pursue another public office.

Complete statement of Chris Abele

"On my first day as County Executive, I pledged to make the tough decision and face the challenges we had not confronted, no matter what. Every day for the past nine years, I have tried my best to do just that – to put our fiscal house of stable ground, address the root causes of chronic homelessness, modernize our approach to the youth justice system, improve our family support and human and health services, and tackle racial equity in our community. Every day, we have been working with the best team in the world to push harder, do more, and do better for the people we serve.

"Today, the time has come to make another tough decision. After nine years in a job I love, I have decided not to run for re-election.

"I ran for County Executive because I care about the community I live in, because I believe in public service and because I wanted to make a difference for my fellow residents. And I have been humbled that you elected me to serve you for the past nine years.

"I have approached public service just as I have approached every venture I take on – giving it my all every day, all day, leaving everything on the field. But I also believe public service is about passing the torch when we have done our best to do what you have elected us to do.

"This commitment required significant sacrifice, which I was honored and humbled to take on. Now – alongside my three incredibly dynamic daughters and a new marriage with a strong woman who brings life and love into every room she walks into – it is time to write our next chapter together.

"I have submitted my proposed 2020 budget to the board with whom I and my office have enjoyed a much-improved working relationship for the last two years. While the County is still challenged by our need for a better solution to fund local government, we are in a good place.

"This announcement does not mean I am slowing down. As I have been talking with Department heads, I have made it clear that we will be sprinting through the finish line in April. We have more to do, and we will do everything we can to walk out the door leaving Milwaukee County and its residents in a stronger place than it has ever been."

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Reaction to Chris Abele's decision

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett

"I was very surprised. Obviously, we worked a lot with him in the county. So I was very surprised and I'm waiting to hear more right now."

Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton

"Looking forward to what he plans to do in this next step. He's definitely been a contributor to what's happening here in the city and the county. But you know, this is a surprise."

Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas

"Decisions like County Executive Abele’s are very difficult and deeply personal. I thank the County Executive for his years of service to Milwaukee County, I wish him and his family the very best, and trust they will remain active members of our community."

Who will be in the running for the position?

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