Milwaukee Names New Health Commissioner

Johnson Led Washington Ozaukee County Health Department

Downtown Milwaukee
Downtown Milwaukee. mksfca (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Kirsten Johnson, the director of the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department, has been named to take over as commissioner of health for the city of Milwaukee.

She’d replace interim Commissioner of Health Marlaina Jackson, who has led the department through intense months of the coronavirus pandemic following the resignation in September of Jeanette Kowalik.

Portrait of Kirsten Johnson
Kirsten Johnson. Photo Courtesy of the city of Milwaukee

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Jackson will resume her role as a deputy commissioner for the Milwaukee Health Department.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett praised Johnson’s leadership history.

“In her role as Commissioner, Kirsten Johnson will bring experience, knowledge, and commitment to the Milwaukee Health Department,” Barrett said in a written statement. “Her expertise will strengthen the efforts of our health department as we continue to navigate the many challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Still, Johnson’s appointment is subject to final approval by the Milwaukee Common Council, and it’s unclear if she’ll have support. Speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon, Barrett appeared confident she would, saying he anticipates Johnson will be approved in the next four to five weeks.

While in the Washington Ozaukee department, Johnson was in charge of a multi-county coronavirus pandemic response. Prior to that role, Johnson served as a health policy fellow and advisor for the offices of Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Ron Kind. Johnson received her master’s of public health from Tulane University.