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Board of Directors - Officers

Name Title Contact
Omar Shaikh Chair

SURG Restaurant Group

Steve Baas Vice Chair Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC)
Jim Villa Treasurer/Secretary

National Association for Industrial & Office Parks (NAIOP)

Peggy Williams-Smith President & CEO

VISIT Milwaukee

Board of Directors

Rafael Acevedo

Rafael Acevedo


Board Member

Rafael Acevedo was born and raised in Milwaukee’s Riverwest community. For the past two years, Rafael has served as the Grant Compliance Manager for the City of Milwaukee’s Community Development Grants Administration.  Rafael is responsible for coordinating the City of Milwaukee’s efforts to end homelessness.  Prior to working at the City of Milwaukee, Rafael worked for seven years at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation as a Philanthropic Advisor.  Prior to his work at the Foundation, he served as the Executive Director of Public Allies Milwaukee and the Latino Health Organization.  Rafael has over twenty years of experience in the nonprofit sector. He currently volunteers his times as a Board member of Visit Milwaukee and Froedtert Hospital.

Steve Baas

Steve Baas


Vice Chair

Steve Baas is MMAC's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.  He lobbies on MMAC's behalf at the federal, state, and local levels, and works with the MMAC Board to identify and advance public policy in the interest of Association members. Baas came to MMAC after more than 16 years of government and political experience, including policy positions within Governor Tommy Thompson's administration and the Wisconsin Legislature.  Baas served from 1997 to 2005 as the Communications Director for the Speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly.

Danielle Bergner

Danielle Bergner


Board Member

Danielle Bergner is the Chief Operations Officer and General Counsel of Milwaukee-based real estate development firm, J. Jeffers & Co.  She is widely recognized throughout the private and public sectors for her work on public-private projects involving complex land use and finance elements.  She was formerly Deputy City Attorney for the City of Milwaukee where she led some of the City’s most catalytic redevelopment efforts, and office managing partner for a large Wisconsin-based law firm where she also chaired the firm’s Real Estate Practice Group. Danielle is also active in the community and serves on the board of several non-profit organizations.

Kate Braasch

Kate Braasch


Board Member

Kate Braasch is the Chief Presidential Liaison, External Engagement, at Marquette University. With over 18 years of nonprofit fundraising experience, 16 in higher education—she strategically manages the President’s external activities as it relates to benefactors, corporate partners, and the community. She holds a B.S. from UW-La Crosse and master’s from Marquette. 

Marty Brooks

Marty Brooks


Board Member

Marty Brooks is the President and CEO of the Wisconsin Center District, owners and operators of the Wisconsin Center, UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, and Miller High Life Theatre. From 1985-2007 Brooks worked for Madison Square Garden. Beginning in 2008 he served as executive vice president and general manager for the Scottrade Center and Peabody Opera house in St. Louis. Most recently, Brooks was the senior vice president and general manager of the America’s Center Complex in St. Louis.

Kathy Causier

Kathy Causier


Board Member

A Milwaukee native and long-time Wauwatosa resident, Kathy was elected to the Common Council in 2010. In April, 2020 she was elected to be the council president. "I’m excited to be a part of VisitMilwaukee and continue my cheerleading for my hometown."

Grady L. Crosby

Grady L. Crosby


Board Member

Grady L. Crosby is a Corporate Officer of Johnson Controls and is responsible for leading Johnson Controls’ global diversity and inclusion strategy, sustainability thought leadership, LATAM government relations strategies, and its philanthropic endeavors. Crosby drives Johnson Controls’ commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive workforce as well as partnering with a diverse vendor/supplier base aligned with company values. Crosby also leads the Johnson Controls enterprise sponsorship capability.

Bill Davidson

Bill Davidson


Board Member

William J. “Bill” Davidson, Vice President of the Harley-Davidson Museum, is proud to work with the talented team that manages one of the largest corporate archival collections of unrestored Harley-Davidson motorcycles and artifacts in the world. As the Museum’s top executive, Davidson is responsible for overseeing its overall business including marketing communications, special event activities and daily operations.

Brian Dranzik

Brian Dranzik


Board Member

Brian Dranzik is a transportation industry veteran who was appointed in October 2017 as the Airport Director for Milwaukee County's General Mitchell International Airport.  Under Dranzik’s leadership, the airport has embarked on several projects to update and modernize with an emphasis on showcasing Milwaukee based businesses and brands.

Michael Evans

Michael Evans


Board Member

Michael Evans became the President of Marcus Hotels & Resorts in January 2020. Previously, Evans was the CEO of Apex Capital Ventures and prior to that COO for MGM Hospitality. Evans also held senior roles with Marriott International and is a seasoned executive with global development experience in the US, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America.

Mark Flaherty

Mark Flaherty


Board Member

Mark Flaherty is the Managing Partner at Jackson Street Holdings and has been involved in development in Milwaukee for over 30 years. Jackson Street Holdings under the Milwaukee Hotel Collection owns 3 downtown Milwaukee hotel properties: the Westin Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Marriott Downtown and the SpringHill Suites by Marriott.  600 premium guest rooms are provided by these 3 hotels. In addition Mark developed the Aloft Hotel and the Fairfield Inn at Miller Park.Mark and Martha established The Project Grace Foundation to celebrate and empower the neuro developmentally diverse individual.

Jeremy Fojut

Jeremy Fojut


Board Member

Jeremy is NEWaukee’s Chief Idea Officer – his creative, outside-the-box vision drives the signature experiences we design. He has spent the last decade applying unique approaches to complex problems to increase engagement, economic development, and awareness for businesses, neighborhoods, and organizations. Jeremy was a 2018 BizTimes Regional Spirit Award recipient.

Eve Hall

Eve Hall


Board Member

Dr. Eve M. Hall serves as the President and CEO of the Milwaukee Urban League.  Known as a leader who builds and connects, Hall emphasizes excellence, professionalism, accountability, collaboration, and communication. She is a sought-after presenter, using her skills and gifts to motivate and inspire others to make a difference.

Kristine Hillmer

Kristine Hillmer


Board Member

Kristine Hillmer is the President & CEO Wisconsin Restaurant Association and Wisconsin Restaurant Association Education Foundation Board of Directors. Kristine has an MBA, has held the Certified Association Executive (CAE) credentials for 23 years, and has more than 27 years of experience working with associations, including both trade and professional societies.

Tracy Johnson

Tracy Johnson


Board Member

Tracy is the president and CEO for CARW  – the Commercial Association of REALTORS® Wisconsin.  She has held roles as executive director for TEMPO Milwaukee, a business association for executive women; director of public affairs for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra; and director of communications for an association of plumbing and mechanical contractors. Tracy spent several years with a global manufacturer, Bradley Corporation, as well as a local advocacy group, Partners Advancing Values in Education. She has served on a number of volunteer and professional boards and committees, and is very involved in community organizations. She is a weekly contributor on AM620 WTMJ’s ‘Week In Review” with host Jeff Wagner.

James Kanter

James Kanter


Board Member

Jim is the Chief Commercial Officer for Sprecher Brewing Company and is a member of the Wisconsin Center District Board of Directors.  Jim previously worked for ACTDental and MillerCoors and was recognized as the only person to ever hold title of Sr. Director of Commercial Operations at MillerCoors with responsibilities of the commercial execution strategy for the company.

Curt Kluth

Curt Kluth


Board Member

For Milwaukee native, Curt Kluth, Partner and CFO of Saz's Hospitality Group, creating memorable experiences and building win-win partnerships through hospitality is incredibly rewarding. A Marquette University High School and UW-Madison grad, Kluth has been a part of the SHG team since 1994, finding passion in helping produce dozens of annual festivals including Bastille Days, Summerfest, and the Wisconsin State Fair, where he also serves on the Board of Directors for the Wisconsin State Fair Foundation.

Lynda Kohler

Lynda Kohler


Treasurer/Secretary

Lynda joined SHARP Literacy in 2012 as its President & CEO. With a Bachelor’s degree from UW-Lacrosse, Lynda has previous experience as President of Ronald McDonald House Charities and as an executive at Midwest Airlines. In partnership with the Board of Directors, Lynda is responsible for providing leadership, strategic direction and vision to develop and achieve SHARP’s mission. She is the chief advocate for fundraising and community presence and is responsible for the management and development of the staff. Lynda partners with other community and non-profit organizations to improve the education and lives of local youth.

Jeremy Lucas

Jeremy Lucas


Board Member

Jeremy Lucas is the Director of Administration & Planning at Milwaukee County Parks. He has over 7 years of experience in government relations. Jeremy has served on a number of volunteer boards and committees, including Friends of Hoyt Park Pool and the UWM Masters of Public Administration Alumni Board. He received a Masters of Public Administration degree in Municipal Management from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Tom Malloy

Tom Malloy


Board Member

After attending school at the University of Utah, Tom has spent the last 28 years working in advertising, hospitality, and gaming.  After living in Las Vegas, California, Chicago, and Iowa, he moved to Milwaukee seven years ago to take the position of Assistant General Manager & Chief Marketing Officer at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino

Dennis McBride

Dennis McBride


Board Member

Dennis McBride is Wauwatosa’s 17th Mayor. He is dedicated to guiding the City’s growth in a fiscally responsible way that balances economic growth with maintaining strong neighborhoods and quality city services.Before becoming Mayor, McBride served 10 years on the Wauwatosa Common Council and two terms as Council President. He also served as Chair of the Council’s Financial Affairs Committee and Transportation Affairs Committee. He was a member of the Village Streetscaping Committee and aldermanic liaison to the Historic Preservation Commission. Before his election as alderman, he served 15 years on the Civil Service Commission, including several terms as Chairman.

Arlisia McHenry

Arlisia McHenry


Board Member

Arlisia McHenry has worked for the City of Milwaukee since 2001. Her tenure includes work for Ald. Terrence Herron, Ald. Joe Davis, and President Ashanti Hamilton. In 2020, she was named Executive Assistant to President Cavalier Johnson. She also served as Community Outreach Liaison for the Common Council, providing leadership, project management, and community engagement for City programs and initiatives.

Rose Murack

Rose Murack


Board Member

Rose Murack is the General Manager of Radisson Hotel Milwaukee West. She has been a leader and mentor in Milwaukee’s hospitality industry since 1992. Rose has been on the Visit Milwaukee Board of Directors for over 20 years and served on the Executive Committee from 2012 – 2019. She also is a member of Visit Milwaukee’s Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Committee (DIAC). She is a proud, life-long Milwaukee resident with deep roots in the community, a passion for the arts, and penchant for Milwaukee’s famous craft beer.

Kevin Newell

Kevin Newell


Board Member

Kevin Newell is a MBA graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with an emphasis in Finance and Management, and an ACRE Alum at Marquette University. As Founder, Newell serves as President and CEO of Royal Capital. Prior to founding Royal Capital, Newell spent three years in public finance where he led efforts to allocate over $200Million in Federal and State resources as the Senior Underwriter and in the former he successfully managed over $100Million in loan assets as the Asset Manager of the Risk Based Portfolio. Newell’s leadership led to the deployment of the largest single allocation of Federal 9% Tax Credits in US History. Newell’s commitment to the community is highlighted by his community and corporate affiliations including Junior Business Academy, Guest House of Milwaukee, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, MLK Economic Development Corporation. He also received the following awards and recognitions: 40 Under 40 (Business Journal), Top 75 Power Brokers (Milwaukee), and 17 People to Watch in 2017 (Business Journal).
 

Kathleen O’Leary

Kathleen O’Leary


Board Member

Kathleen O’Leary, CEO of Wisconsin State Fair Park for the past five years, has 30+ years of experience in marketing, communications and operations. The Wisconsin State Fair is considered one of the top 10 Fairs in the country, welcoming more than one million guests annually. She proudly serves on the Visit Milwaukee Board of Directors and is a member of Tempo Milwaukee and Professional Dimensions.

Jason Rae

Jason Rae


Board Member

Jason Rae is the President & CEO of the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce and a partner at Nation Consulting, a Milwaukee-based public affairs consulting firm. Jason moved to Milwaukee to attend Marquette University, where he graduated from in 2009. He currently lives in Glendale with his husband.

Gerard Randall, Jr.

Gerard Randall, Jr.


Board Member

Gerard A. Randall, Jr. is the Executive Director of the Milwaukee Partnership Academy (MPA), a PK-16 education partnership that aims to bring every Milwaukee student to grade level in reading, writing, math and science. Mr. Randall is also the Managing Partner of The Lazarus Group, which provides education and workforce development guidance, strategic planning and support. Formerly, Mr. Randall served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Private Industry Council of Milwaukee County (PIC), a workforce development board. Prior to leading the PIC, he served as Community Relations Counsel in the County Executive’s Office since June 1995. He also served as a member of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents from May 1994 through February 2007, having served two years as Vice President. In addition to serving for Milwaukee Public Schools on the Board of Commissioners for the Social Development Commission, he currently serves on the Board of Trustees for Cardinal Stritch University and on the Board of Directors for the Milwaukee Public Museum and Milwaukee’s Fresh Coast Basketball Classic.

Maxx Rodriguez

Maxx Rodriguez


Board Member

Maxx Rodriguez has been with the Milwaukee Brewers since 2013 in a variety of roles including sponsorships, suites and events.  He currently oversees the Miller Park Special Events Team, which is responsible for 200+ non-baseball game events at the ballpark each year. 

Omar Shaikh

Omar Shaikh


Board Chair

Omar Shaikh provides Milwaukee residents and visitors with exceptional dining and entertainment experiences as a partner in Carnevor, Wisconsin Ticket Concierge, O & B Consulting, and 3rd Street Market Hall at the Avenue.  Omar finds balance with his involvement in several Milwaukee and Wisconsin-based community and tourism organizations including Sharp Literacy, the WI Athletic Hall of Fame, and Donald Driver’s Driven to Achieve Foundation. Omar currently serves as a member of the Wisconsin Center District Board of Directors and Omar is also Chairman for the Milwaukee Kitchen Cabinet, which is a grassroots movement organized by the Wisconsin Restaurant Association to highlight the positive impacts of Milwaukee’s restaurant community.

Sarah Smith-Panchero

Sarah Smith-Panchero


Board Member

Sarah Pancheri serves as Chief Operating Officer and VP of Sales & Marketing for Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. (MWF), the not-for-profit organization which produces Summerfest presented by American Family Insurance, The World’s Largest Music Festival®. MWF also manages, maintains and develops Henry Maier Festival Park, a 75-acre permanent festival site which attracts over 1.2 million guests across 30+ events and concerts annually.

Howard Snyder

Howard Snyder


Board Member

Howard Snyder founded the Northwest Side Community Development Corporation and served as its Executive Director for 37 years. During his tenure, Northwest Side CDC team successfully managed 21 Office of Community Services Community Economic Development Project grants, creating 1,080 new full-time jobs for neighborhood residents, as well as six Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) grants. The CDC has made over $11 million in loans to small businesses in Milwaukee’s neighborhoods.

Jim Villa

Jim Villa


Board Member

James “Jim” Villa is the Chief Executive Officer of the Wisconsin Chapter of NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association.  NAIOP is the leading organization for developers, owners, and related commercial real estate professionals in industrial, retail, and mixed-use real estate. In 2019, Mr. Villa was named the Chapter Executive of the Year and Wisconsin the Chapter of the Year by NAIOP.

Beth Weirick

Beth Weirick


Ex-Officio

Beth Weirick is a native Milwaukeean who is a self described Downtown lover. Beth has been in the industry of promoting downtown Milwaukee for over two decades and always knew that Milwaukee is a great product - she just wants to make sure the rest of the world knows this too.

Melissa Weiss

Melissa Weiss


Board Member

Melissa Weiss is Director of Administrative Services for the City of Wauwatosa, overseeing communications, tourism, and contributing to city management. Prior to this, Melissa was the Assistant Village Administrator and Director of Public Works in Sussex. Melissa holds a Master’s of Public Affairs from Indiana University. 

Chuck Wikenhauser

Chuck Wikenhauser


Board Member

As director of the 200-acre Milwaukee County Zoo (MCZ), Chuck oversees all Zoo administrative operations including a $26 million budget, a 2000-count animal collection, an annual attendance of 1.3 million visitors and a staff of 575 full-time/seasonal employees. Prior to MCZ, Chuck served as director of the Pittsburgh Zoo, Pittsburgh, PA, from 1986-1989, director of the John Ball Zoo, Grand Rapids, MI, from 1981-1985 and director of the Glen Oak Zoo, Peoria, IL, from 1973-1981. He began his zoo career as a zookeeper, at the Niabi Zoo, Rock Island County, IL, in 1973. Chuck earned a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, in 1971. Chuck has been a Professional Fellow with the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) since 1974 and currently serves on the Accreditation Commission.