Bevan Baker, Health Commissioner, City of Milwaukee
He is Bevan Baker. He is known for his bowties. He likes bowties. He owns lots of bowties in many colors.
But that isn’t all Bevan Baker should be known for. He is a renaissance man, if there ever was one. He loves jazz, he has an eye for art; sports is always on his mind and he’s been known to read a scholarly book or two.
But what we appreciate most about him is his passion for people and that’s critical to the title he holds: Health Commissioner, City of Milwaukee.
That passion is exhibited everyday, whether he is “on the clock” or not. I’ve spent a lot of time with Bevan over the past year and I know first hand that the health and wellness of the people of the city of Milwaukee is paramount to him.
You see it in the programs the health department has undertaken since his appointment some eleven years ago. I wouldn’t want to suggest a bias, but the health concerns of African Americans have been placed on the front burner with Baker at the helm. That’s saying a lot for a city where African Americans lead in most disease state categories despite the focus on improving health outcomes for that population.
But Baker pushes on. He and his department know the numbers and they know it’s their responsibility to turn the negative indices around, reversing the fortunes of the communities that have been hardest hit by poverty and negligence.
When you hear him speak he often punctuates his stories with anecdotes about his son who he speaks of with passion and concern for his future. He talks a lot about the conversations he holds with the little boy, conversations he hopes will shape him into a man who can withstand the challenges he knows his son will face as he grows. Some of those challenges will be imposed on the boy by a society that has long displayed indifference, if not disdain for young Black boys and men. He wants to leave a legacy but he understands that that legacy can be influenced by others his son will encounter. Baker strongly suggests that those people need to do the right thing, not only for his son’s sake, but for every son and daughter and all of us living on this planet if we are going to see a change in the condition of our community.
While he knows that it is his responsibility to set the agenda for healthy living in this city, he encourages and even expects others to take on the responsibility of caring for themselves and their families and collectively we will all be made better.
His messages are often peppered with quotes from some of the people whom he admires most, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, his father, a man he fondly recalls as being “brilliant”. He even references some of today’s popular culture icons, rappers and hip hop artists. Again, he’s a renaissance man. Everything and everyone has value in Bevan’s world.
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