Wisconsin State Fair names Shari Black as interim CEO and executive director

WEST ALLIS, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Wisconsin State Fair Park Board chairman John Yingling announced Tuesday, Oct. 19, Shari Black will serve as interim CEO and executive director. 

Previously announces, Kathleen O'Leary, CEO and Executive Director of Wisconsin State Fair Park, will retire at the end of October, after 24 years in various management roles. 

Per Wis. Stats. 42.02 the State Fair Park Board appoints the State Fair Park Director. Per the State Fair Park Board policies and procedures, Yingling may appoint an Interim Director and is also tasked with selecting a committee of board members to conduct a search for the next CEO/Executive Director.

“On behalf of the entire State Fair Park Board of Directors I would like to thank Kathleen for her 24 years of service to the State of Wisconsin,” said Yingling. “Kathleen’s passion for the Wisconsin State Fair was infectious, and her hard work and dedication will never be forgotten."

“Shari has a wealth of experience and knowledge that make her an excellent choice for Interim CEO and Executive Director,” Yingling added. “The board looks forward to working with her and the staff to continue the forward momentum we have seen at State Fair Park in recent years.”

According to a news release, Black has been involved in the fair industry for more than 20 years. She served as Executive Director for the Waukesha County Fair in Waukesha, Wis., for 15 years. In 2016 Black transitioned to Wisconsin State Fair Park as Senior Director of Event Services, which included managing year-round facility rentals as well as the Fair’s Amusement Ride and Game area, SpinCity. She was promoted to Chief Programs Officer in 2019, which included overseeing Agriculture, Vendor Services, Competitive Exhibits, Entertainment and all rides and attractions for the State Fair event.

“I am honored by this opportunity to lead the talented team at Wisconsin State Fair Park,” said Black. “Together, we will continue the progress made by the board, Kathleen and staff by remaining focused on financial stability, safety and continually improving the experience for all visitors to Wisconsin State Fair Park.”
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