Chris Abele is bringing a new form of leadership to Milwaukee County and Wisconsin. County Executive Abele’s vision for Milwaukee County is to make this a government and a place that we are all proud of, and that others point to when seeking a way forward.
County Executive Abele has lowered the County’s deficit by more than $70 million and has introduced three consecutive budgets that didn’t raise taxes. This fiscal discipline has allowed him to reinvest in critical services like public transportation, child support and mental health care, as well as successfully institute domestic partnership benefits for employees.
Abele was first elected Milwaukee County Executive on April 4, 2011 with an overwhelming 61% of the vote in a nonpartisan special election. One year later he ran unopposed and was reelected to a full four-year term.
In their endorsement of him
in 2011, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said “Abele has the right experience and the right vision. Abele could be a game-changer.”
Since taking office, County Executive Abele has worked hard fulfill that promise. He’s steered clear of status quo partisan politics, opting to spend his time and effort finding innovative ways to improve the systems and structure of decision-making to support and restore important, effective and efficient services to Milwaukee County residents.
As a lifelong Democrat, Abele is proud to support Democrats across the state and country, but he is also proud to reach beyond political labels and across the aisle to achieve the outcomes that serve the people of Milwaukee County. As County Executive, he’s used his platform to try and bring civility back to politics by asking decision makers to set their differences aside and focus on getting things done.
One of County Executive Abele’s priorities at the County has been to fundamentally reform Milwaukee County’s mental health care system. Since taking office, County Executive Abele has demanded more accountability from staff and management at the Behavioral Health Hospital and supported a critical system change that insulates mental health decision making from elected officials. He has also greatly increased funding for the hospital while spending millions of dollars to build a strong and safe model of community based care.
In 2014, with the full support and urging of County Executive Abele, the Wisconsin Legislature voted nearly unanimously to create the Milwaukee County Mental Health Board, an independent board of experts, not politicians, to oversee Milwaukee County’s Behavioral Health Hospital. The board is expected to improve policy functions at the hospital and help facilitate progress toward the community-based model of care used across the country.
In an editorial supporting the creation of the Mental Health Board
the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote, “It's time to turn authority over to a non-political panel of experts to design and oversee a mental health care system for Milwaukee County, as state Sen. Joe Sanfelippo has proposed. (Governor) Walker said he is open to the suggestion; so has Abele, who has continued the effort to move the county to a community-based system. It's what needs to be done to create a healthier system for everyone.
County Executive Abele has also moved aggressively to make Milwaukee County a more transparent, innovative and highly-regarded government. He worked with state legislators on bipartisan agreements to create an independent Comptroller’s Office and reform of the Milwaukee County Board.
Both measures received strong public support. Journalist Bruce Murphy wrote that the reform of the County Board was a long time coming
. “In short, there will be plenty of democracy to go around if we have a part-time board, just as there was for most of this county’s history. But what there won’t be is too much government, too much bickering, and too much time spent supervising county departments, a task that every other county in Wisconsin manages to do without spending so much of the taxpayers’ money.”
County Executive Abele has used his effective leadership to increase accountability, and has reformed the pension backdrop system that nearly bankrupted Milwaukee County. Abele has also helped create jobs and tax base by jumpstarting development on County owned land that has sat empty for years.
In other arenas, Abele has been a highly successful business owner. He currently runs a growing real estate company, CSA Commercial, and venture fund, CSA Partners. Through CSA Partners, County Executive Abele is spending $10 million to fuel innovation in Wisconsin, by investing in early stage, high-growth, companies in the Midwest, with particular focus in Wisconsin.
Prior to taking office in 2011 County Executive Abele ran a medical waste company and led the Milwaukee-based Argosy Foundation as its CEO, where he remains a trustee. The Argosy Foundation seeks to empower others by supporting leaders and organizations that employ creative and entrepreneurial approaches to solving systemic problems.
“Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele – philanthropist and proud LGBT ally – is that oddest of ducks on Wisconsin’s current political scene. He’s a progressive Democrat who’s willing to deal with Republican leaders on behalf of his constituents.
Once upon a time, in an America that seems far away, Abele’s bipartisan, pragmatic approach to governance was expected and even praised.”
County Executive Abele is a dedicated philanthropist focused on empowering others. For nearly 20 years, his volunteer work has included being sought out as a leader on numerous local, national and international nonprofit boards. He currently serves on boards at the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Schools that Can-Milwaukee, and the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University. He has received numerous awards for his effective leadership and speaks regularly on leadership, philanthropy and nonprofit best practices.