Racine city alderman Henry Perez will take over as executive director of the Hospitality Center, a center for people who are homeless, or near homeless.

Perez takes over the vacant position after Rev. Kevin Stewart left the ministry in December. Stewart turned over the position to longtime volunteer Leif Peterson while the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee found a more permanent replacement.

Perez is excited about the opportunity because he sees the job as a ministry, an opportunity to meet a need that has grown within the community. The Hospitality Center serves nearly 1,000 meals a week both with volunteers and partner organizations.

“This ministry is absolutely needed,” Perez said. “But it has to fit into other ministries that are there… so I see my role as helping the community understands that need. My role with the city brought this to my attention and the need is huge.”

But the center has not been without controversy as a number of people have complained about the center. In July Steward requested that the city expand its conditional use permit after it was found to be operating outside of the original terms. But the city decided to defer a decision on expanding its conditional use permit.

During those public hearings, Perez advocated for the Hospitality Center. He explained that he was troubled by the changes the city was proposing to place on the Hospitality Center.

“Henry was the best candidate for the job and we’re pleased to have him,” Peterson said. “We had six people apply and we interviewed four. Each of the four were very capable, but Henry stood out.”

A former police officer, Perez serves as an associate pastor part-time for the Kenosha Christian Reformed Church and works as a security guard for Bradford High School in Kenosha. He’ll leave the job at the school and starts his new job on Monday.

“He has strong interpersonal skills and conviction… he’ll lead the Hospitality Center to the next level,” Peterson said.

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.