DNC host committee moves forward with interim leader

Longtime political consultant Teresa Vilmain takes the reins

Liz Gilbert was fired from her role as president of the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee.
Liz Gilbert was fired from her role as president of the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee.

Last updated on February 7th, 2020 at 01:56 pm

After the swift removal of its top leaders, the local host committee for the 2020 Democratic National Convention is getting its bearings with less than six months until the big event.

Liz Gilbert and Adam Alonso, who served respectively as president and chief of staff of the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee, were fired late Tuesday amid concerns over workplace culture and mismanagement, according to the organization’s board of directors.

The Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee is the nonprofit civic organization responsible for organizing, hosting, and funding the 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee.

The Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee board includes Rebeca López, attorney at Godfrey & Kahn S.C.; John W. Miller, founder and principal at Arenberg Holdings; Michael O’Neil, general counsel at The Dohmen Company; Dr. Joan Prince, vice chancellor of global inclusion and engagement at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Gilbert had also been a board member. 

“Every employee has a right to feel respected in their workplace. Based on the information we have learned to date, we believe the work environment did not meet the ideals and expectations of the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee Board of Directors,” the board said in a statement.

Longtime political operative Teresa Vilmain will serve as the host committee’s interim leader. Vilmain had already been involved as senior advisor for the DNC’s national team, but it’s unclear if she will continue to serve in that capacity.

In the board’s statement, Vilmain is described as a “Wisconsin resident and convention veteran.”

She got her start in politics in 1980, working for Senator Edward Kennedy’s presidential campaign and has since been involved with several others’ including Hilary Clinton and Tom Vilsack, according to the American Association of Political Consultants.

She worked in her home state of Iowa early in her career, but later moved to Wisconsin where she was a consultant to Jim Doyle’s successful governor’s campaign in 2002 and Herb Kohl’s successful U.S. Senate campaigns in 1988 and 1994, and served as state director for the Clinton/Gore and Gore/Lieberman presidential campaigns in 1996 and 2000, respectively.

In addition, Vilmain has consulted for a number of non-profit and activist organizations including the Human Rights Campaign, EMILY’s List, Be The Change Inc., The Voter Participation Center and the Rockefeller Family Fund.

Vilmain was not immediately available for comment.

Joe Solmonese, CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee, released the following statement in response to the board’s decision to remove Gilbert and Alonso:

“Respect for employees is a core value of the Democratic Party and it must be reflected in every office environment. The gravity of the concerns raised by employees of the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee demands a serious and meaningful response, and I am grateful to the Host Committee’s Board of Directors for acting promptly to address this issue. Employees who take a stand and call for respect, fairness, and safety in their workplace have our full support, and I am proud of the Host Committee employees who courageously came forward.”

The 2020 DNC is scheduled for July 13 to 16.

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Maredithe Meyer
Maredithe Meyer started as an intern reporter at BizTimes in summer 2015. She currently covers entertainment, sports, tourism and restaurants. In May 2017, she graduated with a journalism degree from Marquette University where she worked as an in-depth projects reporter for the Marquette Wire and Marquette Tribune.