State Fair names interim CEO/executive director

Shari Black
Shari Black

Last updated on October 21st, 2021 at 12:49 pm

Shari Black will serve as the interim chief executive officer and executive director for Wisconsin State Fair Park, board chairman John Yingling announced today.

“Shari has a wealth of experience and knowledge that make her an excellent choice for Interim CEO and Executive Director,” Yingling added. “The board looks forward to working with her and the staff to continue the forward momentum we have seen at State Fair Park in recent years.”

Current State Fair Park CEO and executive director Kathleen O’Leary will retire at the end of this month.

“On behalf of the entire State Fair Park Board of Directors I would like to thank Kathleen for her 24 years of service to the State of Wisconsin,” said Yingling. “Kathleen’s passion for the Wisconsin State Fair was infectious, and her hard work and dedication will never be forgotten.”

Black has been involved in the fair industry for more than 20 years. She served as executive director for the Waukesha County Fair for 15 years.

In 2016, Black came to Wisconsin State Fair Park as senior director of event services, which included managing year-round facility rentals as well as the Fair’s Amusement Ride and Game area, SpinCity. She was promoted to chief programs officer in 2019, which included overseeing agriculture, vendor services, competitive exhibits, entertainment and all rides and attractions for the State Fair.

“I am honored by this opportunity to lead the talented team at Wisconsin State Fair Park,” said Black. “Together, we will continue the progress made by the board, Kathleen and staff by remaining focused on financial stability, safety and continually improving the experience for all visitors to Wisconsin State Fair Park.”

Black graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Carroll University in 2001 and currently lives in Waukesha.

“I’ve had the privilege of working with and mentoring Shari throughout her career, even prior to her joining the team at State Fair Park,” said O’Leary. “She brings extensive experience in both Fair and Non-Fair event management to the table. I wish her the best of luck and know she’ll do a great job leading the State Fair Park staff.”

Andrew Weiland 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, Weiland is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, and son, Zachary. He is an avid sports fan and enjoys coaching his son’s youth baseball and basketball teams.

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