Whither MKE Cnty: Do We Need An Elected County Executive?

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele has been a very vocal critic of the current Milwaukee County Board. And if he’s not one of the major instigators of the movement to declaw the board he is certainly an ardent supporter. One of his recurring themes has been the fact that for most of Milwaukee County’s history, the board consisted of part time supervisors. And since the 1970s, the number of county employees has gone from 11,000 to the current head count of 4,400 while a number of county functions have reverted to state control. So he certainly thinks it makes sense that the county board revert to part time status. Executive Abele is correct on the shrinking role of county government and the local franchise of PolitiFact supports his head count.

But Executive Abele’s contention is a two edged sword. We have only had an elected county executive in Milwaukee County since 1960…and as Mr. Abele has said, we’ve seen a continued decline in the size of county government since that time. So is an elected county executive still necessary?

Well guess what, the bogey man often brought up in support of a downsized structure in county government is California’s Los Angeles County…a much larger county with far more municipalities that Milwaukee County and unincorporated areas (which we don’t have in MC) only has five full time county board members…BUT absolutely no elected county executive…instead they have a chief executive officer who is hired by and reports to the Los Angeles County Board. See my little discussion on Los Angeles County govt here!

So, since a major component of our current county government dysfunction is the inability of the executive office to work with the board…do we still need an elected county executive?

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