I’ve been covering Milwaukee’s business community as a journalist for the past 21 years, telling the stories of the region’s most effective entrepreneurs leading its most dynamic companies and nonprofit organizations.
If you’ve been following along by reading this C-Level column for the past three years, you know that Wisconsin has plenty of world-class corporate leaders whose visions, strategies and tactics are driving the state’s economy.
Alas, this rewarding mission comes to a close after this week’s column. More on that later, but first I want to share with you some of the leadership traits I most admire as I reflect back on this journey:
The feisty resolve of Milwaukee inventor, entrepreneur and philanthropist Michael Cudahy. He was my first C-Level subject, and the interview was memorable. Few people have had a greater impact on this city.
The collaborative skills of Griselda Aldrete, president and CEO of Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee. This dynamo has transformed her organization. When “Griz” calls, people can’t seem to turn her down.
The devotion to the concept of servant leadership of Richard Pieper Sr. That gentleman is always the wise man in the room, and he’s generous with that wisdom.
The candor of Richard Meeusen, who will retire in 2019 as the CEO of Badger Meter Inc. Meeusen often makes dinner program organizers nervous, because of his penchant to tell it like it is, even if it makes some feel uncomfortable. He’s a Milwaukee original, and he’ll be missed.
The inherent inner grace of Joan Prince, Ph.D., vice chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. No matter the issue, “Dr. Joan” is always on the right side of the moral discussion. Prince was nominated by former President Barack Obama to be an alternate representative to the 67th General Assembly of the United Nations, with the honorary rank of ambassador. She has served her country, her university and her city well.
The accessibility of Frank Krejci, CEO of Glendale-based Strattec Security Corp. I like CEOs who answer their own phones.
The strategic vision of Evan Zeppos, principal and senior public affairs adviser at Michael Best Strategies. If my company was facing a public relations crisis, he’d be the first person I’d call.
The humility and pragmatic humanity of Curt Culver, non-executive chairman of MGIC Investment Corp., Milwaukee. Culver’s commitment to a robust employee benefit plan helped MGIC keep its most talented personnel and rise from the ashes of the Great Recession.
The boundless optimism of Cecelia Gore, executive director of the Milwaukee Brewers Community Foundation. She remains committed to the notion of a better Milwaukee, no matter the naysayers and obstacles in her way.
The determination of Darryl Morin, president and CEO of Advanced Wireless Inc. Morin’s keen focus on the mission enabled Milwaukee to land the 2019 League of United Latin American Citizens National Convention over other finalists such as Los Angeles; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Corpus Christi, Texas.
The bravado of Paul Grangaard. He revived the Allen Edmonds shoe brand and recently launched a bold new men’s apparel venture, CircleRock LLC.
The sense of mission of Eve Hall, Ph.D., president of the Milwaukee Urban League. Hall is determined to be a catalyst for change.
The enthusiasm of Joe Sweeney, an author, consultant and speaker who has worn too many hats to list in the space. Sweeney won’t be denied.
The whimsy of Ben Salzmann, president and CEO of Sheboygan-based Acuity Insurance. When I interviewed him, he sat upon a ceramic carousel horse in the middle of his company’s headquarters complex, which also has a Ferris wheel.
The fearless spirit of the late George Dalton, founder and former CEO of Fiserv Inc. At the height of the Great Recession, when many intrepid entrepreneurs had retreated into fox holes, Dalton called them out to become “swashbucklers” again. He was right. And he’d be proud to see his company’s name atop the Milwaukee Bucks’ new arena.
It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as the business editor and columnist at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. I will miss working with my world-class staff who will continue on a noble and vital mission.
And armed with the wisdom from the fearless leaders I have interviewed over the years, I close this chapter of my career and turn the page to become the director of corporate communications at Graef, the Milwaukee-based engineering, planning and design firm that announced last week it will move its headquarters to become the principal office tenant in the former Shops of Grand Avenue. There, I’ll join CEO John Kissinger, whose robust leadership also was featured in this column this year.
I’ll see you around town.
Steve Jagler is the business editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. C-Level stands for high-ranking executives, typically those with “chief” in their titles. Send C-Level column ideas to him at email@example.com.
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