Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett's ambassadorship nomination confirmed by U.S. Senate

·3 min read

The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed the nomination of Mayor Tom Barrett to become ambassador to Luxembourg, marking a turning point for the city.

The vote came late Thursday evening.

Barrett after the vote thanked President Joe Biden, who nominated him to the position, and Wisconsin Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson for their help in moving his nomination forward in the Senate.

He said in being mayor of the city where he grew up he got the chance to live his dream.

"I'm not running from something, I'm running to something," Barrett said in a virtual press conference after the vote. "And I think we all recognize that there are different chapters in life, and I'm very, very eager now to start this next chapter."

Barrett did not say specifically when he plans to resign.

However, he said he believed the timing would allow the Common Council to meet a Dec. 28 deadline, the latest date it could order a mayoral election to take place in conjunction with the Feb. 15 spring primary and the April 5 general election. That would avoid forcing taxpayers to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a special mayoral election.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett speaks during a press conference at City Hall in Milwaukee on Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021. The White House announced Wednesday that President Joe Biden will nominate Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to serve as ambassador to Luxembourg.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett speaks during a press conference at City Hall in Milwaukee on Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021. The White House announced Wednesday that President Joe Biden will nominate Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to serve as ambassador to Luxembourg.

After Barrett departs, Common Council President Cavalier Johnson will become acting mayor until a special election can be held to fill the remainder of Barrett's term, which ends in 2024.

Barrett said he anticipates a smooth transition to Johnson's leadership "over the next few weeks."

He said he planned to speak with Johnson later Thursday evening or Friday morning and would also be in contact with the White House and State Department on the timing of his move.

"I don't know exactly what the timing will be for this but I anticipate that the changeover will take place before the end of the year," he said.

Barrett did not take questions.

Johnson is one of seven candidates — including Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas, Ald. Marina Dimitrijevic and former Ald. Bob Donovan — who have filed papers to run for the permanent position.

In a statement Thursday evening, Johnson congratulated Barrett and said he was ready to lead the city.

Barrett, who was first elected mayor in 2004, will leave the city at a trying time. But his departure could also usher in a moment of generational change in Milwaukee.

Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican, on Thursday expressed his support for the nomination of Barrett, a Democrat.

“I’ve worked with my Republican colleagues to ensure no Republican objects to the nomination of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to be U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg," Johnson said in a statement. "I expect his confirmation will now proceed in the Senate and wish him the best in his continued service."

The statement of support came one day after the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved Barrett's nomination.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has been blocking Biden's nominees to ambassadorships across the world as he tries to force the administration to reimpose sanctions on a natural gas pipeline project from Russia to Europe.

Barrett was nominated to the position by Biden in August and last month was in Washington D.C. to take questions from the committee.

His was one of more than a dozen nominations taken up by the committee on Wednesday.

Journal Sentinel reporter Mary Spicuzza contributed to this story.

Contact Alison Dirr at 414-224-2383 or adirr@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter @AlisonDirr.

More: U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee approves Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett's ambassadorship nomination

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Senate confirms Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett's ambassadorship nomination