Irish Fest announces leadership succession plans

The board of directors for CelticMKE, the nonprofit organization that produces Irish Fest in Milwaukee, announced a succession plan for two key leadership positions, which will go into effect in 2024 and 2025.

Caitlin Ward-Hegedus, a Brookfield native who is currently the marketing and operations manager for Visit Muskegon in Michigan, will take the helm as the executive director of CelticMKE in three years.

She will succeed Mike Mitchell, the organization’s current executive director, who has been in the position since 2018. After serving more than 28 years as a volunteer and seven years as the director, Mitchell announced his plan to retire at the end of 2025.

“Throughout the past year, the board prepared and adopted a strategic succession plan to ensure the long-term success of the organization,” said Matt Jendrzejczyk, CelticMKE’s board president. “By planning ahead now, we will be able to execute a smooth transition, whilst continuing to build upon the talent and experience of our existing leaders. Assuming the role of executive director will be a natural progression for Caitlin, who has proven to have the expertise and vision necessary to strategically position CelticMKE for future growth.”

Ward-Hegedus has more than 10 years of experience in the hospitality and tourism industry. She received her bachelor’s degree in hospitality management from the University of Central Florida, worked in guest relations at Walt Disney World, and returned to Milwaukee for a few years to work with the Wisconsin Center District. There she gained experience in small to large scale event management, convention and public show sales, contract negotiation and entertainment booking.

At Visit Muskegon, she is responsible for departmental budgets, marketing and special projects and is also the acting parks and recreation grant writer, successfully writing over $10 million in acquisition grants in the last two years.

A longtime CelticMKE volunteer, Ward-Hegedus currently serves as a board member and coordinator for festival guest receptions.

In two years, Franklin native Molly Modlinski, currently the director of administration for CelticMKE, will fill the role of director of festival operations, as Catherine Ward plans to step down and retire at the end of 2024, after spending six years in the position and over 40 years in various leadership roles.

Modlinski has been involved with CelticMKE for over 25 years. She started at a young age volunteering at the festival in the children’s area and worked her way up into coordinator roles in the artist merchandise, special services, and marketplace vendor areas.

Prior to joining the staff at CelticMKE as the director of administration, Modlinski mentored and evaluated new hires while managing and facilitating for Morristown, New Jersey-based insurance company Crum & Forster for six years.

Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.