Brenda Coley is the Co-Executive Director of Milwaukee Water Commons. Over the years she has served in various positions in the non-profit and academic sectors and brings a long-standing commitment to social justice and community organizing. She has been a non-profit director, research coordinator and project manager with expertise in leadership development and organizational capacity building.
Before joining Milwaukee Water Commons, Coley was sole proprietor of Brenda Coley & Associates, helping local and national organizations build the cultural competence to approach marginalized populations around health, leadership development and social justice issues. In addition, she has served on many community engagement boards and public health initiatives, specifically focused on equality and health disparities within the LGBTQ and other minority communities in Milwaukee.
Coley is committed to exploring the influences of one’s own culture and understanding ways in which groups of people are treated in society, using that knowledge to develop strategies to effectively engage diverse groups of people in important community issues.
Communications and Administrative Manager
Anne Bohl comes to Milwaukee Water Commons with a diversified background in the non-profit sector as well as six years’ experience managing her own sustainable farm business. She grew up on the north side of Milwaukee and feels a strong connection to its people, culture, and natural spaces. With a BS degree in Natural Resource Management, environmental awareness and stewardship have always played an important role in her life and work.
After several years of hands-on environmental restoration for various land trusts and consulting firms, Anne moved to northeast Iowa to work for Seed Savers Exchange. This led to starting her own small farm business focused on growing and distributing organic produce through a community supported farm model.
She hopes to use this unique experience and skill set to make a positive impact on Milwaukee’s water and people through her work with Milwaukee Water Commons.
Water City Program Coordinator
Rhonda joined Milwaukee Water Commons in 2019.
She brings with her over 20 years experience working in education, youth empowerment, community health and the dismantlement of systems of oppression. Believing liberation will not manifest without environmental justice, she is excited to be a part of the Milwaukee Water Commons' work.
Kirsten Shead is the Co-Executive Director of Milwaukee Water Commons. She has an unwavering commitment to social justice, environmental stewardship and the Milwaukee community at large.
Kirsten has worked with MWC in varying capacities since 2014 – as a community partner, serving on the Advisory Team, as a Community Organizer focused on lead in drinking water and access to blue-green jobs, and as Water City Program Manager.
Kirsten has a B.S. in chemistry and broad experience working in education, industry and environmental labs. She left the corporate world in 2009 for the nonprofit sector. From 2013-2017 she served as program director for the Interfaith Earth Network, utilizing her passion for interfaith understanding, collaboration, and dialogue. She joined the MWC team full-time in 2018.
Kirsten strives for a simple life, emphasizing relationships, community, justice, nonviolence, and peacemaking. She loves exploring the natural world – scuba diving, kayaking, camping, and other wilderness adventures.
Water City Program Coordinator
Joe Fitzgerald grew up thinking about the intersections between water and communities in his life and in the lives of those throughout the Great Lakes Region. Fitzgerald graduated from Northland College with a double major in natural resources and geosciences, emphasizing ecological restoration and water sciences.
Joe’s career has taken him throughout the Midwest to research the biological and chemical health of freshwater systems. Whether working from the woods, from a lake or river, or in Milwaukee, Joe has always been interested in gaining perspective from the people and places around him.
He aims to bring those perspectives to his position working with the Milwaukee Water Commons coordinating initiatives focused on improving water quality, and advancing inclusive pathways to blue green employment in Milwaukee.
Melanie is a Milwaukee area mixed media artist who uses creative work to communicate about issues surrounding the Great Lakes. Her goal is to get people to think about water issues in a non-traditional way, by evoking a simple metaphor or tapping into a spiritual connection to water. She coordinates water themed art activities in our Water Leadership training series and helps neighborhood leaders implement creative projects in their communities.
Public Allies AmeriCorps Apprentice
Ananna Sellers joined Milwaukee Water Commons in September 2020 as a Public Allies AmeriCorps Apprentice. She is a leader in SHEBA, a project of Diverse and Resilient, where she actively contributes to Black Transgender unity and visibility in Milwaukee. She is also an affiliate of Community Promise, an entity associated with Vivent Health.
Her goals lie in advancing marginalized communities in a variety of challenging areas of life. Ananna is active in combating social issues, as well as dismantling systems of oppression and all the structures that contribute to systemic racism and discrimination. She is very excited to be a part of environmental justice work in Milwaukee and knows this work begins with our connection to our natural habitats and resources.
Central Team Member
Water is the central member of the Water Commons team. Water is 60% of most mammal bodies, 70% of the earth’s surface, and over 90% of most plants. Constantly in motion, water changes from liquid to vapor to ice and is part of every season. The water most familiar to us in Milwaukee is the 10,000 year old great lakes system of above ground rivers and underground aquifers connected to the southwest shore of Lake Michigan.
In the Anishinaabe language, all of the Great Lakes are known by one name, Michigami, the vast place. Although we conduct our business in English, Milwaukee Water Commons serves communities who use many languages and we recognize the names for water given by the Potawatomi, Ojibwe, Menominee, Ho-Chunk and Oneida nations who have been stewards of the water in this place for many centuries: Mbish Nibi Nepēw Nįįna and Ohnekanus. Like these nations, we recognize the role and the rights of water in our world. Water is essential, it is spiritual. We are water.