WEDC Board meeting

Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation Board Chair Hank Newell (left) and incoming agency CEO Missy Hughes at a board meeting in Madison Wednesday. 

The incoming economic development head said she’s looking to work closely with the agency’s board in shaping its business-related strategy across Wisconsin.

Missy Hughes, who Gov. Tony Evers selected earlier this month to lead the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, participated in her first agency board meeting in Madison Wednesday, about a week before she officially starts her new role as secretary and CEO of the public-private agency.

Also at the meeting, board members approved her $195,000 annual salary -- a level her predecessor was making after four years on the job. 

Most recently a general counsel and chief mission officer with Organic Valley/CROPP cooperative, Hughes told board members she had “worked very closely” with her former employer’s board consisting of just seven farmers, and she’s looking to continue that process at a larger scale at WEDC — while helping foster strategic alignment among board members.

"I think the board is a key stakeholder in the strategy of the organization," she said. "I have no idea what’s happened in the past but it’s my intention that, working with (new WEDC board chair Hank Newell), working with all of you, we will have alignment on that strategy and then you all will be supporters of that out in the universe for the org and help us really expand our voice."

"But if we’re not aligned on that, it’s going to be really hard to do that," she said.

Hughes’ appointment to the agency as its fourth leader comes after former CEO Mark Hogan, a pick of former Gov. Scott Walker, stepped down earlier this month. Evers, under the December lame-duck laws the Legislature passed in extraordinary session, wasn’t able to select a successor until September.  

The laws also temporarily changed the makeup of the WEDC Board so it would be controlled by GOP appointees until this month. Now, the panel is down to 18 members, 11 of whom are new this year.

The board on Wednesday also heard from its new chairman, Hank Newell, who said he was involved in the process of selecting Hughes as CEO. He said he’s looking to consolidate different standing committees within the agency “and make them more effective.”

He also mentioned finding ways to better engage the Department of Administration and Department of Revenue, whose secretaries serve on the board outside of meetings, as he stressed the importance of supporting management "as management lays out their strategy process."

At a luncheon Tuesday, Evers praised Hughes as "the best person that applied for the WEDC post.

He added the selection shows his administration backs “the present work around advanced manufacturing,” wants to see a 72-county approach to economic development and is looking to ramp up support for startups.

Hughes, who began working at Organic Valley in 2003, was one of 28 applicants to the position and one of six finalists, according to the Evers office.

Other finalists were: Sam Rikkers, of the Department of Administration; Emer Moore Jr., of Scale up Milwaukee; Brian Taffora, of Michael Best Strategies; Carrie Thome, who previously worked at the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation; and Jamie Wall, formerly of Askeaton Advisors in Green Bay.  

Hughes officially starts in the role Oct. 1. 

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