Representative JoCasta Zamarripa is proud to have been born and raised in the community which she now represents, serving Milwaukee's 8th Assembly District which is home to the largest Latino population in the great state of Wisconsin and a district that has always had a rich immigrant history. Prior to becoming the first Latina woman elected to Wisconsin Legislature in November 2010, JoCasta worked for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and Fair Wisconsin, and served as a board member for 9 to 5 National Association of Working Women. She has always been a champion of equality. JoCasta also knows the importance of being a strong role model and of hard work as she herself comes from a family of workers who moved to Wisconsin seeking better economic opportunities.
JoCasta was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Raised by a single mom, JoCasta is the oldest of four children. Her grandmother, Alicia, was a migrant farm worker from Eagle Pass, Texas, who moved her family to Wisconsin because she believed there were better economic opportunities for her and her family in the dairy state. After permanently moving to Wisconsin, her grandmother got a good union job working for Wisconsin Bell, where she would ultimately retire. JoCasta’s mother, Patricia, has worked in food service for most of her life, although she now works as a slot attendant at Potowatomi Casino in Milwaukee. JoCasta is very proud of the fact that she comes from a family of workers. She knows the importance of hard work and being a strong role model. In 2010, JoCasta won a historic election by becoming the first Latina woman elected to the Wisconsin Legislature and proudly represents the 8th Assembly District on Milwaukee’s near south side, the same district she was raised in.
JoCasta graduated from St. Joan Antida High School and is the first in her family to graduate from college, receiving her BFA from UW-Milwaukee in 2005. Prior to her candidacy for the 8th Assembly District, she worked as a community outreach coordinator for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, working with women and teens in Milwaukee on access to sex education and healthcare.
She recognizes the challenges workers, particularly women, face balancing their job and families, and she used that knowledge in her work with 9 to 5 National Association of Working Women as a board member and, later, as one of their organizers on the Paid Sick Days campaign, which garnered a huge victory for Milwaukee workers when voters voted overwhelming in favor of the referendum in the fall of 2008.
JoCasta has always been a champion for equality. In 2006, she worked as an organizer for Fair Wisconsin, working to defeat the ban on same sex marriage in our state’s constitution. Though LGBT Wisconsinites, like JoCasta, would suffer a crushing defeat that November, she would go on to fight for marriage equality as a state legislator and, ultimately, see the victory come down via the Supreme Court in 2015.
JoCasta is also very proud of her time working for Southside Organizing Committee (SOC), a non-profit organization serving Milwaukee’s near south side community. Under the direction of then-executive director, Steve Fendt, she first learned the value and skills of community organizing. Today, JoCasta is grateful to continue to collaborate with SOC under the leadership of Executive Director Tammy Rivera, helping to facilitate their monthly, bilingual (English/Spanish) Drivers’ Cards Forum.
While the experience and relationships built during her time working as a nonprofit professional and community and political organizer was invaluable, it also made her realize that it was time to take her work to another level. Knowing that she resided in the district with the lowest voter turnout in the state, JoCasta always knew it would be her life’s goal to increase civic engagement in her community. In November of 2010, JoCasta made history by becoming the first Latina woman elected to the Wisconsin Legislature.
In 2012, as she was launching her first re-election campaign to the State Assembly, JoCasta came out as an openly bisexual member of the LGBT community. Running for and serving her first term “in the closet” is her one regret in her initial decision to run for elected office and she encourages LGBT young people and all to embrace their identity, so that one can, not only “survive, but thrive” as proud members of our LGBT community. She was reelected in 2012 and, again in 2014 and is honored to serve in leadership for the Assembly Democrats as their Vice-Caucus Chair.
Serving a district that is home to the largest Latino population in the great state of Wisconsin, as well as a district that has always had a rich immigrant history, from Polish to Mexican, JoCasta believes it is her responsibility to be a leader and champion in supporting pro-immigrant policy at the state level. She champions drivers’ cards for undocumented drivers to make everyone driving on our roads safer and increase the number of insured drivers. She fights against bills that would turn our community's police officers into immigration agents, keeping people in the shadows and all of our neighborhoods less safe. And she supports empowering cities and counties to be able to issue local IDs to their residents who can't get a state-issued ID, so everyone living here can participate fully in civic life.
JoCasta is proud to have been born and raised in the community which she now represents in our Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison. She rode her bike up and down West Historic Mitchell Street as a child, she played with her cousins under the Allen Bradley Clock Tower, she marveled at the beauty of St. Josaphat’s Basilica on South 6th Street as a young person and she loves to spend time and money at area businesses on South Cesar Chavez Drive and in the Walker’s Point neighborhood to name a few places.