Everette Mitchell appointed UW
Community Relations Director:
Bridging Town and Gown
Everette Mitchell recently worked as an
assistant district attorney in the Dane
County District Attorney’s Office.
with her about some creative ways we could work with landlords to give more ex-offenders opportunities. We came up with a
creative solution and it was always there because Section 8 probably has used it, alternative screening criteria. You can deny them
legally based on certain things. But you can also use secondary criteria, which Section 8 has probably been doing forever. But private
landlords have not been doing it. It protects the landlord, but also gives an opportunity for people who don’t have a loan credit history
or a landlord history to articulate to the landlord why they are a good risk for the landlord to take.”
Mitchell ended up working with a lot of organizations while he was at MUM and it was the experiences of the ex-offenders that drove
him to attend law school.
“I never thought of law school until I met some clients, particularly Eddie Quinn,” Mitchell said. “He recently passed away. The
experience he had being denied the opportunity for a job and the reasons the employer was giving to him made me realize that this
wasn’t fair. So even though I had never thought about law school, I thought maybe if I learned something about the law, I could give
an opportunity to give back to people who don’t understand these systems and give them the language that they need in order to be
able to negotiate and navigate in these systems.”
After he finished law school, Mitchell found immediate employment as an assistant district attorney in the Dane County DA’s Office. It
allowed him to look at both sides of the criminal justice process.
“Just because you say a person has done something wrong doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t hold them accountable for the
things that they’ve done wrong and try to present alternatives that ultimately they could use to make different decisions,” Mitchell
said. “But ultimately, I think this job has limitations and we are here to protect the public. But what I’ve learned more than anything is
to have more empathy for victims. I think a part of this role teaches you that people are hurt by what people do and you get to see the
horrific pictures and hear those stories. And once you meet those victims and see how badly they’ve been hurt by violence or
whatever, then you get a greater sense of how people’s actions can impact them. You have to keep it in balance. I want the person
who did this to be treated fairly and get justice, but I also want the victims to have the same kind of justice and equality.”
Little did Mitchell know that his life, professional and volunteer experiences would make him the ideal candidate for the position of
director of community relations where he will be a bridge between town and gown. The position, which was first held by the late
LaMarr Billups and later Dawn Crim, is now housed in the Office of University Relations under Vice Chancellor Vince Sweeney.
“He is ahead of these different initiatives that were once like little silos and not brought together to work together. So the team I will
be working with is state relations, corporate relations, community relations and visitors information program. Before they may have
all worked separately, but now they can work together.”
Mitchell will, however, still be doing the same interface work that his predecessors did.
“I will still represent the university on the Alcohol License Review Committee and will be on the labor licensing committee as well,”
Mitchell said. “I look forward to getting people to see the value of the university as much as I have seen the value of it. I also want to
work in building relationships so that the university also recognizes that the community has something to offer. The richness, diversity
and intellect and the passion are something that can continue to fuel the symbiotic relationship for a long time. I will be reaching out to
the Hmong, Latino and LGBT communities. I will be connecting with all elements of the community including neighborhood
associations and smaller non-profits.”
The university is the size of a small city and is a behemoth in proportion to many of the organizations and individuals it must interact
and co-exist with. Mitchell will be working hard to help the university be a good neighbor and avoid or minimize any issues or
problems that may crop up over time. Mitchell will be doing a whole lot of relating to the community and helping the community
access the university.
By Jonathan Gramling
The Madison labor market is a hard one to break into, even with outstanding degrees.
Everett Mitchell, recently named the director of community relations for the University
of Wisconsin-Madison, came to Madison armed with an undergraduate degree from
Morehouse College and a masters in divinity and masters in theology from Princeton
Theological Seminary. He ended up delivering pizzas for Pizza Hut. The bonus was he
got a free pizza after every shift, which helped him feed the family.
It wasn’t until Mitchell hooked up with Dr. Perry Henderson, a fellow Morehouse alum,
that Mitchell got his break when Henderson introduced him to Mary Kay Baum, then
executive director of Madison-area Urban Ministry. Mitchell was hired on as the
associate director, focusing on the services MUM was providing to ex-offenders. It is
an experience that had a profound impact on his life.
“We partnered with the Apartment Association of South Central Wisconsin and Nancy
Jensen,” Mitchell said about working to secure housing for ex-offenders. “We talked