The Wisconsin Right Now awards are here. Here’s who we think did the right thing in 2020.
We define winners as people or groups who did the right thing, took the state in the right direction, had a good year, and/or acted honorably.
You can see our 2020 Wall of Shame here.
1. Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber
For his actions in 2020, we award Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber the top position in our wall of fame. Weber exemplifies the highest principles and standards of a true leader. Weber is a cop’s cop. He defended and supported one of his officers under immense pressure. Weber withstood continuous unfair attacks and calls for his resignation by The People’s Revolution. Weber did a fantastic job during the ongoing protesting and rioting as he rode the fine line between allowing people to protest while maintaining the safety and security of the community.
2. Wisconsin Rank And File Police Officers
They had a tough year, but we’re going to name them winners because of how valiantly they continued to do their jobs despite the dangers of a pandemic and unprecedented attack from the media and Black Lives Matter. We think they’re supported by most people, and we included them on this list to remind them of that. The story we wrote about a heroic Milwaukee police officer who, when faced with a gun pointed at his chest, talked the woman down, exemplifies how officers, on a daily basis, face extremely difficult circumstances with great courage.
3. Rick Esenberg & The Wisconsin Institute of Law & Liberty
The conservative lawyer and WILL did the heavy lifting for conservatives this year, advancing their arguments in court with intellectual rigor.
4. Health Care Workers
Doctors, nurses, and medical technicians for quickly adapting, working tirelessly and risking their own lives to save others as the coronavirus spread in waves and continues to overwhelm the system and workforce.
5. Orlando Owens & The Joseph Project
Orlando Owens lost his bid for state Assembly as a Republican in Milwaukee (it’s tough running as a black conservative in Milwaukee), but his is an important, eloquent voice we hope is increasingly heard. Behind the scenes, he’s doing great work to help people get jobs through The Joseph Project.
6. Kenosha Mural Painters
In Kenosha, after riots and arsonists destroyed a lot of downtown, business owners and community members got together and painted messages of hope, optimism, love and peace on boarded up windows. We photographed these, and they were beautiful and represented the community’s resilience in the face of destruction. Buzzfeed wrote a negative story accusing the painters of painting over messages like “f*ck 12” and BLM propaganda. See the murals here. Unlike those that marred State Street, they didn’t include negative and nasty stereotypes about cops.
7. Chief Alfonso Morales
Yeah, he was treated like dirt by the city, but he’s going to end the year with a big payday and his honor and dignity intact. Plus, he can look in the mirror at night because he did the right thing, the right way, and he never pandered to the anti-police narratives, media, or nutty politicians. He suffered no fools gladly, and it was refreshing to see. He was a cop’s cop, respected by his officers. He was also a person extremely invested in the Milwaukee community he’s lived in all his life. Milwaukee’s loss.
8. Joseph Mensah
Wauwatosa officer Joseph Mensah pursued and was forced to fatally shoot a person who was armed with a stolen gun and discharged it around cops outside of Mayfair mall. Mensah’s heroic act in stopping a mall gunman was met with calls for his termination. Mensah was cleared in the shooting death, but eventually resigned under immense pressure. In each of the fatal shootings by Mensah, the District Attorney ruled them justified actions. We don’t think it’s right to criticize an officer for a justified act he took legally. He gave up his career because he put his life on the line protecting the community in split-second judgments ruled lawful self defense. In addition, he weathered unprecedented harassment that culminated in a felony charge against a protester for discharging a gun at him on his girlfriend’s property. We wish you luck, Joseph.
9. Mark Belling
Mark Belling is a powerful force who gives conservatives a strong voice in the Milwaukee area. While Charlie Sykes was perched on MSNBC selling out to liberals, Belling was the driving force for conservative thought in Wisconsin.
10. Dan O’Donnell
Dan O’Donnell continually breaks news that other media outlets don’t have. He’s not just a pundit; he’s a good reporter, and Milwaukee needs more of that.
11. The Veterans Who Put Up the American Flag Outside Longfellow Middle School
When someone (presumably BLM) took down an American flag during riots in Wauwatosa, a group of Vietnam veterans and others put it back up.
“Let freedom ring,” said Joe Campbell, 73, a Vietnam veteran and Wauwatosa resident who helped raise the flag.
12. Chris Johnson
He ruffles feathers among Milwaukee’s Democratic elite, but that’s not a bad thing. He’s hard to peg politically, which means he writes his conscience. Through his Kingfish website, Chris Johnson is doing serious independent journalism in Milwaukee’s black community, which has been under served by the news media for years. Keep up the great work!
13. US Rep. Bryan Steil
A rising star. He took the lead in getting federal intervention to stop the Kenosha rioting and has focused on getting people back to work. Wisconsin needs a strong Republican farm team, and he’s one to watch.
14. WI State Rep. Barb Dittrich
The Oconomowoc rep. withstood vicious attacks funded by piles of dark money to win another term. She’s been a consistently solid conservative voice in the state Legislature. Leadership calls?
15. Ron Johnson
We discovered that Sen. Ron Johnson and his office do a lot of positive, quiet work in Milwaukee’s inner city, in particular helping people released from prison become self-sufficient by getting jobs. We don’t think they get enough credit for this. Read our story on the Joseph Project for an example of this. His office also organized a political discussion in an inner city barbershop.
16. Small Business Owners
They had a tough, tough year. But for their grit and dedication to the community, for their sheer perseverance and ability to adapt, we have to tip our hats to Wisconsin’s small business owners.
17. Three Wisconsin State Troopers
Wisconsin State Troopers Alexander Polizzi, David Heinisch and Keegan Williams for pursuing, stopping and engaging a suspected bank robber during which time the suspect had engaged troopers with gunfire. The suspect was shot and killed by the troopers when he attempted an armed carjacking. No other injuries reported. Well done, men.
18. Julian Bradley
Bradley became the the first black Republican elected to Wisconsin’s Senate. Although his qualifications are obviously more important than his race, his election does highlight the diversity of opinion in the African-American community. A rising star to watch!
19. State Sen. Roger Roth
State Sen. Roger Roth, R-Appleton, for showing true leadership by working hard behind the scenes to get a surge testing center to Neenah during the pandemic while the Evers’ administration dawdled and dropped the ball.
20. New Berlin Police & the Anonymous Person Who Helped
What happened between a New Berlin police officer and anonymous person represents the best of society despite all the stresses law enforcement and the public have undergone in 2020. The PD’s Shop With a Cop event was cancelled due to COVID-19, but a New Berlin officer went to Walmart to buy $800 in gift cards for needy families. This illustrates the good, quiet work police do every day. Police wrote on Facebook that a random citizen stepped up to make the purchase for the officer; in addition New Berlin police gifted needy children nearly $3,000 in gift cards by raising charitable donations. Good work!