View of the Monona Terrace from Lake Monona.

Lunch breakout conversations

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About Alyssa Kenney

Alyssa Kenney is the state broadband and digital equity director for the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin. At the commission since 2019, Alyssa manages the talented team that coordinates the BEAD and digital equity program along with numerous state and federal broadband grant programs, the Wisconsin Broadband Map, the State Universal Service Fund, and numerous projects and initiatives that support a more connected Wisconsin. Before coming to the commission, Alyssa served as the executive director of a digital equity and community technology-focused non-profit. She serves on the Madison Public Library Board, the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board, and as an expert advisory panelist on internet affordability. Alyssa is a proud University of Wisconsin–Madison alumna and longtime Wisconsin resident. She is passionate about solving wicked problems and connecting people to each other (mostly through great broadband).

About Steven Little

Steven brings to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ leadership team more than 25 years of public policy, executive budget management, financial regulatory, and government relations experience in both the public and private sectors. Prior to accepting an appointment as the director of management and budget for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Steven was a senior vice president of government relations for Citigroup Inc., with a focus on state government relations in the Upper Midwest. Steven holds a master’s degree from the Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and received his undergraduate degree in government from Beloit College.

About Casey Newman

Casey Newman was appointed Division of Business Management (DBM) administrator in March 2019. DBM manages the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s information technology, facilities, fleet, purchasing, fiscal services, printing, and risk and safety programs. He has spent the majority of his 28-year career with the department, serving in several senior management roles, most recently as the director of the Bureau of Business Services in DBM and previously as the department’s budget and policy director. Casey has also held senior positions at the Department of Corrections and UW–Madison.

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About Chief Matt Fennig

Matthew Fennig has been with the City of Delafield Fire Department (now Lake Country Fire Rescue) since 1997. Matthew has served in every rank in the agency and was promoted to fire chief in 2019.  Matthew has received the Executive Fire Officer certificate from the National Fire Academy and a bachelor’s degree in fire and safety engineering technology from the University of Cincinnati. Matthew is also the president of the Waukesha County Fire Chiefs Association.

About Rob Henken

Rob Henken is the president of the Wisconsin Policy Forum, a position he has held since 2008. Before he became forum president, Rob worked in Milwaukee County Government for nearly 10 years, serving as director of research for the County Board, director of the Department of Health and Human Services, and director of Administrative Services. He also has directed two non-profit organizations in Milwaukee — the Alliance for Future Transit and the Milwaukee Jobs Initiative. Prior to moving to Milwaukee in 1994, he worked for seven years on Capitol Hill as a senior aide to two congressmen and as staff director for a House of Representatives foreign affairs subcommittee. Rob has a bachelor’s degree in history from Brown University and a master’s degree in journalism and public affairs from American University.

About Chief Mike Stanley

Michael Stanley has been the chief of the Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Fire Department since 2018. Prior to that, he served 22 years with Aurora, Colorado, Fire Rescue. Mike has received the Chief Fire Officer designation from the Center for Public Safety Excellence, possesses a Master of Education and Human Resources degree from Colorado State University, and is the president of the Wisconsin State Fire Chiefs Association. He is an experienced educator having presented locally, nationally, and internationally.

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About Ofelia Mondragon

Ofelia Mondragon is an experienced and motivated professional who is committed to delivering quality housing to Milwaukee County residents. She is currently SDC’s healthy homes lead abatement manager, overseeing the administration and supervision of staff within SDC’s lead hazard programs, healthy homes inspections, and coordination of all housing activities with SDC’s weatherization assistance programs. Ofelia holds dual degrees in business and management and mathematics. She is a certified Lead Risk Assessor and Healthy Homes Inspector.

About Nancy Quirk

Nancy Quirk is a Registered Professional Civil Engineer and is currently the general manager at Green Bay Water Utility. She has thirty-five years in the drinking water industry in Wisconsin previously working at Madison Water Utility and Waukesha Water Utility. She has served on national drinking water association boards and councils. She is currently a special government employee of the EPA as a member of the EPA’s National Drinking Water Advisory Council.

About Brian Weaver

Brian Weaver has dedicated his career to making a positive difference for children, families, and communities. Working primarily with governmental and non-profit agencies in the areas of public and population health. He serves as the lead policy advisor at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and is charged with carrying out Governor Evers’ 2019 Executive Order #36: Relating to Measures to Abate and Prevent Lead Exposure. In this role, he coordinates the development of policy and budget initiatives, working across agencies and levels of government to develop and implement a comprehensive agenda to reduce lead poisoning and increase lead hazard control efforts in Wisconsin.

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About Chief Matt Rokus

Matt Rokus is the Eau Claire Police Department’s 20th chief of police. Matt has a bachelor of arts degree in criminal justice from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy, the Wisconsin Criminal Justice Executive Development Institute, the Leadership in a Police Organization program from the Wisconsin Department of Justice, and Northwestern University’s Supervision of Police Personnel course. He is a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Police Executive Research Forum, and an executive board member of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Wisconsin.

About Mayor Katie Rosenberg

Katie Rosenberg was elected Wausau’s 46th mayor on April 7, 2020. Katie earned her associate’s degree in liberal arts from the University of Wisconsin-Marathon County, her bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and her master’s degree in strategic communications from George Washington University.

About Captain Avrie Schott

Avrie Schott is a captain with the La Crosse Police Department and oversees the Professional Standards/Community Services Bureau. She has been with the La Crosse Police Department for almost 23 years serving as a patrol officer, school resource officer, DARE/GREAT officer, sergeant, and lieutenant. In 2021 she was promoted to captain. She is a Wisconsin Certified Public Manager, graduating from the law enforcement-specific Wisconsin Command College. She is a certified Mental Health First Aid Instructor, part of the CIT Trainers team, coordinator for the Department’s POST team, Honor Guard member, and has served as a negotiator with the department’s emergency response team.

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About Nathan Franklin

Nathan Franklin was born and raised on a dairy farm in Central Wisconsin. His undergraduate work was in economics and political science and he has master’s degrees in public affairs and business administration. Nathan has worked in the political/public policy worlds for almost 20 years, including stints with the Wisconsin State Legislature, the Governor of Wisconsin, and in various leadership roles with several political campaigns, including two presidential contests. Nathan’s private sector experience began in 2010 in the energy industry—he transitioned to health care and the now Bellin Gundersen Health System in 2020. Nathan lives in rural Vernon County (Wis.) with his wife, Beth; they have two college-age “children.”

About Scott Schmitt

Scott Schmitt primarily focuses on the development of low-carbon, resiliency, and ‘beneficial electrification’ products and services for Madison Gas and Electric Company (MGE) customers. He also leads MGE’s ‘Joint Plant’ efforts representing the company and its customer’s ownership interests in numerous jointly-owned renewable and fossil generation facilities located throughout Wisconsin. Scott joined MGE back in 2001 and has previously managed the finance and business planning areas. Scott holds a BA in accounting from Luther College (Decorah, Iowa) and an MBA from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

About John Holloway

I am the fifth generation of my family to own and operate our farm. I’m very active in government, education, and agricultural organizations. 1977 graduate of UW–Madison with a BS in Agricultural Business Management. I served as chairman of our Plan Commission for 28 years and was elected as Town Chairman four years ago. Currently serving as a commissioner on Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.

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About Walter Orzechowski

Walter has master’s degrees in public health and business administration. For the past 20 years, he has directed and developed a wide range of anti-poverty programs in rural southwestern Wisconsin including housing, health care, nutrition, transportation, addiction recovery, job training, and small business development. His skill set includes pulling together a wide range of funding and community support to fulfill his organization’s mission.

About Teig Whaley-Smith

Teig’s passion is making Milwaukee the best place on planet earth, particularly for families that have been left out of the larger social, political, and economic systems. Teig is a lifelong Sherman Park resident and is a proud Milwaukee Public Schools alumni and parent. Teig currently serves as the chief alliance executive for the Community Development Alliance, an alliance focused on advancing racial equity by providing a quality affordable home for every Milwaukeean.

About Jon Searles

Jon Searles is community and economic development officer at the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA). He works with developers to provide them with the capital and expertise it takes to build and preserve affordable housing, partners with municipalities on their neighborhood revitalization plans, and supports small business expansion. Prior to WHEDA, Jon served as vice president of marketing at the national affordable housing and community development nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners. He also served in various roles at Fannie Mae in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., and worked for two governors of California. He recently returned to his home state to be closer to family after 27 years on the East and West Coasts.