Wisconsin State Fair Board gets new CEO

Posted at 12:15 PM, Oct 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-29 13:15:38-04
WEST ALLIS, Wis. (AP) -- After considering 20 applications for a new head of the Wisconsin State Fair Park Board, members unanimously decided the current interim CEO is best suited for the job.
Kathleen O'Leary was named CEO of the State Fair Park Monday, after receiving approval from all 13 board members, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Former CEO Rick Frenette was fired in May after ignoring the state approval process and giving 32 executives, including himself, a merit pay increase that totaled about $78,000. O'Leary was then named interim chief executive, and became the first woman to lead the State Fair.
Board chair John Yingling said that O'Leary helped navigate the fair through some tough months, and lead the fair to financial success as attendance was over 1 million people.
"She understands the fair business. She knows the fair business. She knows who our competitors are here in Milwaukee. It's not a matter of how you beat your competitors but how you complement your competitors. We're not looking to take anything away from anybody. We're looking to add. And Kathleen knows how to add value," Yingling said.
O'Leary said she had a "robust vision" for the Wisconsin State Fair and State Fair Park.
"There's nothing that's not right but there's always room for improvement," she said, pointing to renovations that will take place on the west side of the park.
O'Leary joined State Fair in 1998 and rose through the ranks from sponsorship manager to marketing and communications. Before becoming chief executive, she was the fair's chief operating officer.