By Princess Safiya Byers Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service Published Sep 17, 2022 at 11:16 AM

Elmer Moore Jr. says he has the best of everything in his new role as the CEO of the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, or WHEDA. 

WHEDA is a state agency that works to provide affordable housing and improve the quality of life of Wisconsinites.

Moore, 44, was appointed by Gov. Tony Evers in March and has been spending his days since gaining a clear understanding of his job. 

“My primary job right now is learning,” Moore said. “This role includes a lot, like I’m a part of the governor’s cabinet.”  

He said though he never imagined being in his role, it’s exactly where he’s meant to be.

“I am a part of the lucky minority that has absolute clarity about why I exist. I understand that my existence is to be catalytic to communities,” he said. “WHEDA is an incredibly interesting organization with a lot of amazing resources, and those resources start at the brain power and mission of the leadership team. “ 

Moore said being part of that leadership team is aligned with his purpose of centering on humans.

“Elmer is committed to helping other people and initiatives be the best they can be,” said Lafayette Crump, Milwaukee’s city development commissioner. “He does care a great deal about helping others access their full potential.” 

Originally from Baltimore, Moore came to Milwaukee in 2013 with no interest in staying in the city. But said he fell in love with Milwaukee. 

“Joaquín Altoro (the former CEO of WHEDA) took me on a two-and-a-half-hour driving tour of the city and that changed the geography of the city for me,” he said. “I started to see it as a city of neighborhoods and cultural history.” 

Moore has held several roles since moving to the city, including a long stint with Scale Up Milwaukee, an initiative that works with entrepreneurs to build economic growth for the entire region. 

He also serves as chairman of the board for the Social Development Commission, board member for the Harbor District and as an adjunct instructor for Marquette University and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, instructing students on entrepreneurship.

He said all these roles have aligned with his purpose. 

“My first week of business school someone explained that you can change your industry, or you can (change) your function,” he said. “Well, I don’t know what my function is, and I definitely don’t have an industry, and that’s how I’m doing what I’m doing.” 

Moore has a bachelor’s degree from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and a master’s degree in business administration from Columbia Business School in New York City.

“Elmer is so passionate about the community. I met him in a discussion about equity,” said Abra Fortson, the government affairs and executive support manager for the Social Development Commission. “He is enthusiastic about everything Milwaukee.” 

Said George Hinton, the CEO of the Social Development Commission, “He’s a leader who is not afraid to roll up sleeves. He’s not afraid to dive in and have those difficult conversations.” 

Moore plans to leverage his background in business development, job creation, strategic partnerships and community engagement to support WHEDA’s commitment to housing equity and economic opportunity.

“The value in being an outsider coming into this organization is I get to ask questions,” he said. “It’s helpful. It opens how we introduce and reintroduce ourselves and how to connect and reconnect.” 

Moore said WHEDA does extremely complicated work, and his vision is that the organization continues to reach the people it serves.

“I want people to know what WHEDA does, so they know when to call us,” he said.

WHEDA focuses on affordable housing, but Moore said that doesn’t always look like what we might imagine. 

“WHEDA is helping people buy homes on an individual level, helping developers build buildings on another level and WHEDA is even adding black millionaires to the work through our work and support of developers like Brandon Rule.

Outside of his work, Moore said he spends a lot of time with his wife and son. He’s also an avid biker. 

“During the pandemic, Elmer started baking,” said Crump. “He got pretty good at baking delicious bread and the commitment he put into learning how to bake and create his flavors of bread is a testament to the way he approaches everything.” 

Despite Moore’s many accomplishments, he said he’s happy about his work for another reason. 

“I can’t believe the things I’ve done,” he said. “I’ve made my mother proud.”