Joel Brennan will leave his role as secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Administration to lead the Greater Milwaukee Committee. Brennan, who has worked with Gov. Tony Evers’ administration since his appointment to helm the DOA in January 2019, will succeed Julia Taylor as GMC president. Taylor announced her retirement earlier this year after 19 years with the organization. “One of the things I’ve learned over the past three years is to have a bias toward taking action and doing whatever you can to move our community forward. I’m honored to lead the GMC and build on the initiatives established by Julia Taylor and the GMC,” Brennan said. “The GMC has a tremendous track record of accomplishment over its long history that provides a solid foundation to make an even greater impact on the challenges facing our community.” The GMC is made up of almost 200 of the top CEOs and leaders of major business, industry, financial institutions, law firms and educational institutions in the metro Milwaukee area. It is dedicated to improving the civic life and economy of southeastern Wisconsin. Its priorities include improving K-12 educational outcomes in Milwaukee, talent retention and equitable workforce development, business development, and growing resources to address the area’s infrastructure needs. “Joel Brennan brings an incredibly unique skill set and track record of success in both the public and private sectors, all of which made him the strongest candidate to fill this role,” said Gregory Wesley, co-chair of the GMC selection committee and senior vice president of strategic alliances and business development at the Medical College of Wisconsin. “He’s well suited to advance the GMC’s mission of building better communities and improving the lives of all people in southeastern Wisconsin.” Brennan previously was president and CEO of Discovery World from October 2007 to January 2019 and is credited with helping the organization turn multi-million-dollar operating deficits into surpluses and eliminating millions in capital debt, according to the GMC. Prior to that, he worked for Milwaukee’s Redevelopment Authority, where he directed real estate development and large economic development projects, including the redevelopment of the Menomonee Valley, relocation of Manpower's headquarters to downtown Milwaukee, reconstruction of the Milwaukee Intermodal Station and redevelopment of the former Pabst Brewery site. He began his career as a legislative assistant to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett when Barrett served in the U.S. House of Representatives. Mary Ellen Stanek, a co-chair of the selection committee and founder, managing director and chief investment officer at Robert W. Baird & Co., said the GMC drew an impressive pool of candidates for its top leadership position. “Given the needs in our community and the chance we have to move our community forward, we all believe Joel is uniquely qualified to achieve that goal,” she said. Cristy Garcia-Thomas, chief external affairs officer at Advocate Aurora Health, also co-chaired the selection committee. “Joel’s professional accomplishments and knowledge of both the local business and political landscapes are tremendous assets that he’ll be able to leverage to the benefit of the GMC, and more importantly, the broader community,” she said. Evers thanked Brennan for his service in a statement Wednesday. “Especially over the last 19 months, the Department of Administration has been a critical partner in supporting our state and our economic recovery efforts, and I wish secretary Brennan and his family all the best," Evers said. Evers is appointing Department of Financial Institutions secretary Kathy Koltin Blumenfeld as secretary-designee of the DOA when Brennan exits in January.
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