Milwaukee city workers return, buildings reopen after 15 months

Monday, June 21 is back to the office for hundreds of Milwaukee city workers.

You’ll still need to wear a mask to enter and do business inside places like City Hall, although the mayor said in May the city will not ticket those who don’t. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, 850 city workers out of 6,200 have been working remotely.  On Monday, the vast majority will return to the office for the first time in 15 months.

"All service counters, front desk staff will all be available to the public and ready to serve our residents," said Makda Fessahaye.

That means places like City Hall and the Zeidler Municipal Building will once again have face-to-face interactions with the public.  For Fessahaye, it will be a chance to meet some of her employees in person for the first time.

"I just started with the city in February, so personally, I have not really had a chance to interact with my colleagues and have that comradery that you would if you were in person because I started while everyone was still working remotely," said Fessahaye.

Fessahaye is the city’s department of employee relations director.  She said there’s a huge benefit for the public.

"I know that that is really important for a lot of people that may not have access to the internet or online modules to really just have that face-to-face interaction," said Fessahaye.

The decision to reopen facilities was made on May 27 and comes 20 days after the city’s mask mandate ended on June 1.  However, inside city-operated buildings, masks will still be required of visitors and employees in shared spaces.

Milwaukee City Hall

Milwaukee City Hall

"We are an employer, and what we have said all along is that for those organizations, those businesses, those entities that make the decision that are going to continue having a mask policy, that we’re going to support that," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

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A small number of positions may continue to work from home. There’s a pilot program underway to gauge interest and effectiveness.

Mayor Barrett said he applauds the efforts of all employees who helped keep the government running during this difficult time.