MILWAUKEE - Nearly four weeks ago, veteran Milwaukee County Board
member Marina Dimitrijevic took the helm of the 18-person elected
body in a hotly contested race for chairperson. Dimitrijevic was one
of five board members vying for the position.
Dimitrijevic's appointment is notable for a number of reasons.
She is only the second woman to preside over the board in its long
history. At age 31, Dimitrijevic also is the youngest person to
serve such a high leadership position in county government.
Dimitrijevic sat down for a conversation May 3 and discussed her
immediate goals and how she hopes to change public perception of a
board that, at times, has garnered its share of controversy and
CONLEY NEWS SERVICE: How have your first few weeks been as
chairwoman of the County Board?
DIMITRIJEVIC: It's been very positive. I've definitely been
treated with respect. We're in a new era, we're turning a new leaf
and we have a clean slate. I really want to focus on moving forward,
rather than dwelling on the past. I've already made my appointments
and committee assignments with the intent of finding balance and
having diverse representation. That's very important to me.
CNS: Moving forward, what are some of your immediate goals
DIMITRIJEVIC: I've already started with some of them, including
the committee appointments. I'm in the process of planning a series
of listening sessions that I'm calling ŚChat with the Chair.' I plan
to visit every municipality throughout the county so I have the
chance to hear people.
There are a lot of issues (the County Board) will be focusing on,
including transit, addressing deferred maintenance on the parks and
looking at health and human services. (The board and I) will
definitely be looking at ways we can improve when it comes to
communication with the public.
CNS: What prompted you to chair the County Board?
DIMITRIJEVIC: I'm into my third term on the board. As I entered
my second term, I sought the position but, of course, lost it to Lee
Holloway. But in the back of my mind, I always thought about seeking
the chair position again. I think I have the ability to lead and
help with coalition building.
I want to pull everyone together from all sides of the aisle.
Throughout my past two terms, I was a leader in a number of things,
including offering domestic partner benefits. I'm very proud that
we, as a board, have been able to offer that to employees.
CNS: You've been involved in an effort known as Green
Print 2.0 and recently served as keynote speaker at an event at MATC.
Tell me about this.
DIMITRIJEVIC: The workshop was called, 'Driving Towards 2020' and
was about green vehicles. Topics included fuel efficiency. We're
looking at taking environmental responsibility to the next level by
looking at successes and taking that next step.
CNS: You've sat on the County Board eight years, and you
entered politics at age 23. Why did you want to do this at such a
DIMITRIJEVIC: I thought I could make a difference. I don't want
to take credit for this in any way, but there has been a trend of
younger people entering politics in recent years. I've been part of
an organization called the Young Elected Officials Network and have
served as the director of the Wisconsin chapter to help get people
CNS: Will you be using social media to get the word out
about various county-level initiatives with constituents?
DIMITRIJEVIC: Yes. I just started a new Twitter account,
@BoardChairwoman, which surprisingly was not already taken. I
also have a
Facebook page (Chairwoman
Marina Dimitrijevic), which has already received a good number
of 'likes.' I think social media is a powerful tool. It's free, and
it's rapid. It helps us, at the County Board level, to diversify how
we get our message out. We'd like to have a presence at all levels.
CNS: The County Board has been under its share of
criticism and scrutiny in recent years. Moving forward, how would
you like people to view you and your elected colleagues?
DIMITRIJEVIC: We are your representatives at the county level.
This is a very new board, and I'm very hopeful of where we're
headed. People may not realize it, but we deal with a lot of
critical services. I like to say we go from A to Z, meaning the
airports to the zoo. Personally, I've pledged to get back to people
within 24 hours. I may not have an answer right away, but I will
always acknowledge calls and emails in a timely manner. This is
about transparency and open government.