OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV) — Lori Palmeri is not only the mayor of the 8th largest city in Wisconsin, but her life is a testament to the word resilient.

Lori was born in Maryland to an American mother and South American father.

“So my mother’s white. You saw the pictures: red hair blue eyes fair skin. And my biological father is indigenous to Columbia. He emigrated to the United States in the ’60s…Jaimie. So I identify as white Hispanic of Hispanic descent.”

It wasn’t easy for Lori to connect with her Hispanic heritage because discrimination came from within her family.

“My mother didn’t want me to be connected to that. My grandparents were quite prejudiced. Not just against a brown person but also because of religious differences,” Palmeri says. “My mom referred to me, and she still does as at 52 years of age, as her brown little 

monkey baby.”

Lori’s teen years were spent in and out of foster care, and at 15, she became a mom. At 20, she reconnected with her Hispanic heritage.  

“It’s been part of my life, the second half of my life.”

Those with a multi-cultural heritage make up a small percentage in Oshkosh, and that may have been just enough to get Lori Palmeri elected mayor.

“I do. I absolutely do. I think it played a small role because I feel that my background and my education…I was a non-traditional student who went back and got my bachelors in my late 30’s, and my son was going to college and then went on to do my masters in urban planning.”

In 2019, Lori Palmeri became the first elected female Mayor of Oshkosh.

“I was kind of the reluctant mayoral candidate. Half of the people voted for change and half of the people didn’t, right. I think that’s basically the way you have to look at it.”

Lori stays active in many communities and realizes keeping diverse talent in Oshkosh is important.  Lori’s life experience has given her a unique ability to connect with many people.

“All I’ve been really trying to do is be a listening ear and that servant leader that’s my style.”