Longtime political strategist Joe Solmonese is not one to shy away from a challenge. He recently moved from New York to Milwaukee to spearhead the day-to-day operations of planning and executing the Democratic National Convention, which will be held here from July 13 to 16, 2020. Before he was named to that role, Solmonese served as chief executive of EMILY’s List, which backs female candidates who support abortion rights; president of the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for LGBTQ equality; and most recently as transition chair of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Solmonese was the featured speaker at a recent Milwaukee Press Club event, where he took questions from a panel of journalists including BizTimes Milwaukee reporter Maredithe Meyer.
What benchmarks will you aim to meet before next summer?
“Internally, I could show you reams of historic documents that I am using as measures for where we should be in terms of revenue, at what point do we begin to take up different aspects of this work from logistics to building out the stage and what happens on the stage, and of course, how we staff up. We’ve got probably a dozen people on board now between the host committee and the convention committee, but that number will reach 100 by the end of the year and will go up from there. There’s also a set of things that we will make sure we are doing externally… so that everyone who is a stakeholder who is impacted knows as quickly and readily as we can get that information out there.”
What role will security play in the planning process, and how will you manage its impact on area businesses and residents?
“We live in a time when I think it would be safe to say that both conventions are going to have a heightened degree of security. One of the very first things we are doing is making sure we are way ahead of the curve on things like physical security and cybersecurity, as well… Once all of it is in place, we plan to engage members of the community – business and residents – and be as clear with them as we possibly can be about specifically what the impact will be and how we can help minimize that impact… If there’s an apartment building inside the security perimeter, we owe people in that building a conversation that is not something they’re going to read about on Twitter. We want to be incredibly intentional about looking business by business, household by household and making sure that we show up in a much more personal way to share what we know and that folks have an opportunity to ask as many questions as they need to.”
How will you ensure the convention’s impact will be spread throughout the city?
“Every inch of the city will be having things going on and the traditional venues I have no doubt will be used. But one of the things that we want to do is to be as creative and thoughtful as possible about bringing the convention out to diverse parts of the city, to far parts of the state, to as many places as we can so that the world has an opportunity to experience all the richness and diversity of Milwaukee and the state Wisconsin, and that any community and anybody has the opportunity to engage, as well.”
What have you learned from past DNCs that will guide you in planning this one?
“We really want to create something here that is sustainable. We want to create something here that leaves a measure of goodwill when we leave.”