Last updated on June 23rd, 2020 at 02:50 pm
Omar Shaikh will stay on as board chair of VISIT Milwaukee until June 2021, delaying plans to transition out of the role at year’s end.
The co-owner of SURG Restaurant Group on Friday said, via Twitter and later in an interview with BizTimes Milwaukee, that he feels it’s necessary to continue supporting VISIT Milwaukee chief executive officer Peggy Williams-Smith as she navigates the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis, now just eight months into her role.
“She’s been trying to work her way out of quicksand,” said Shaikh, referring to the ongoing pandemic, which has upended the local and national tourism and hospitality industries.
“Due to the newness of me in this role, we decided that continuity would be paramount as we begin to recover from the economic devastation caused by the pandemic,” said Williams-Smith in a statement Monday.
Shaikh said remaining for the full fifth year of his term, rather than leaving halfway through, will allow more time to work with Williams-Smith on initiatives that were interrupted by the pandemic.
Steve Baas, who was slated to succeed Shaikh as chairman on Jan. 1, remains in his role as vice chair for now. Baas has served on VISIT Milwaukee’s board of directors since 2018, and currently works as the senior vice president of government affairs at the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.
Baas’ appointment initially sparked criticism by Milwaukee Ald. Michael Murphy, who issued a statement on June 9, calling the move “tone deaf.” In the statement, Murphy referenced a 2016 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report on leaked documents from the John Doe investigation into questionable political moves of former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his Republican aides. A leaked email chain revealed Baas and conservative political operatives considered plans to stir up concerns of voter fraud while there was uncertainty about former Supreme Court Justice David Prosser’s defeat of challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg in 2011, according to the Journal Sentinel report.