Wisconsin State Fair's Kathleen O'Leary retiring

Kathleen O'Leary

Kathleen O’Leary, Wisconsin State Fair CEO and Executive Director, announced her retirement from state service after 24 years in various management roles at Wisconsin State Fair Park. 

A news release says O’Leary’s career spans nearly 35 years and includes public and private sector experience in marketing, sponsorship, communications, and operations in addition to serving as CEO. 

O’Leary began her tenure at State Fair Park in sponsorship and moved into overseeing marketing, sponsorship, and communications. The release says she briefly served as Chief Operations Officer at State Fair Park before being appointed Interim CEO prior to the 2016 Wisconsin State Fair. In October 2016, O’Leary was officially appointed the first female in the history of State Fair Park to serve as CEO and Executive Director. 

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O'Leary issued the following statement in a news release:

"Words can’t describe how much I will miss leading the team at Wisconsin State Fair Park and bringing the joy of the Wisconsin State Fair to the people of our great state. We have made great strides over the past several years, not just in terms of State Fair attendance, but also in overall guest experience at State Fair Park yearround. I am proud to have been instrumental in ensuring that several large infrastructure projects, including the new Central Mall area, were completed, and know that despite the challenges of the past 18 months, the future is bright at State Fair Park." 

Kathleen O'Leary

Kathleen O'Leary

State Fair Park Board Chair, John Yingling, will appoint an Interim CEO/Executive Director prior to O’Leary’s departure at the end of October. He will also appoint a special committee of current State Fair Park board members to conduct a search for O’Leary’s successor. 

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The news release says the Wisconsin State Fair is considered one of the top 10 fairs in the country and has garnered numerous industry awards in recent years under O’Leary’s leadership. Prior to the cancelation of the 2020 State Fair due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event welcomed more than one million guests for seven consecutive years. 

O’Leary currently oversees a staff of more than 100 year-round employees, along with approximately 1500 part-time and seasonal employees leading up to and during the State Fair.

This is a developing story.

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