Executive Director’s Corner: Kathy Davies and Mike Harrigan

As WEDA reported last month, our former executive director, Brian Doudna, officially left his post on Oct. 2 to become director of the Sheboygan County Economic Development Corporation. While WEDA is in the process of hiring a permanent executive director, we are fortunate to have two very capable individuals – Kathy Davies and Mike Harrigan – step in to serve as co-interim directors in the meantime. Please find below a brief update from both Kathy and Mike:

Kathy Davies:

Over the next few months, I am happy to assist WEDA in maintaining operations while the Board completes its search for our new Executive Director. I am honored to share this role with Mike Harrigan who will take on the economic development tasks.

Shortly after retiring from the Alzheimer’s Association in 2018, WEDA asked me to consider a contracted position as your conference and meeting planner. I have enjoyed learning the ‘economic development world’ and meeting some great people!

During my time with the Alzheimer’s Association, my work included planning our annual Wisconsin conference that drew over 900 attendees. I also served as the Chapter’s Development Director and ended my career as the Chapter’s Program Director.

I will lean on my past experience as Mike and I temporarily lead WEDA through the end of the year. Both of us are fortunate to also have the support of WEDA staff, including Michael Welsh, our legislative affairs director, and Kathy Heady, our WEDA Academy Manger. All of us are here to serve you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any of your thoughts or questions – or if you need any assistance.

Mike Harrigan:

This is an exciting time for WEDA. Due to the past leadership of prior WEDA Boards and its first full-time executive director and current staff, WEDA has positioned itself to play a key role going forward as a resource to both public and private economic developers across this state.  We all know that the challenges ahead are formidable, but with great challenges come great opportunity as well. I am pleased to be able to help with the transition that is underway.

During the period of transition from our former executive director to the new director, I was asked to serve in a collaborative role with Kathy Davies as a “Co-Interim Executive Director”.  Kathy will be involved in the day to day administrative responsibilities of the executive director, and I would come into play in the event that there are questions or matters involving economic development that might call for someone with a more technical background in the field. As interim co-directors, Kathy and I are also providing primary staffing support to the WEDA Board’s Search and Screening Committee that is currently working on filling the executive director position on a permanent basis.

For those that do not know me, a bit of background…   I have served in Wisconsin as a City Manager / Administrator for 19 years in 3 communities in Wisconsin prior to joining the Ehlers & Associates firm in 1993.  Ehlers is a regional Financial / Municipal Advisory firm for Local Governments. At Ehlers I was a Senior Municipal Advisor focusing exclusively on Wisconsin municipal clients. I retired as Chairman of Ehlers in November of 2018 having served 25 years with the Company.   Shortly after retiring in early 2019 Brian Doudna contacted me to ask that I consider a part time role with WEDA to assist with their new CRA Network initiative.

During my professional career, I have had a long and enjoyable relationship with WEDA and its leadership. During my years at Ehlers I spent a great deal of my time focused on matters involving Economic Development finance—specifically Tax Incremental Financing (TIF), developer pro-forma review and development agreement negotiation support. Ehlers has always been a strong supporter of WEDA and its efforts to advance Economic Development within the State.   In its role in support of TIF legislation WEDA, along with the League of Wisconsin Municipalities and the Wisconsin Realtors Association has often called upon Ehlers and its team of advisors to provide technical support for various legislative initiatives including TIF law modifications.

I have agreed continue to serve WEDA on a part time basis through June of 2021 and during that time will be working with the new Executive Director to solidify the CRA Network initiative and to assist in any other ways that I can.   The ultimate objective is to “work myself out of another job”!

In the meantime, I have started a new company (H & A Advisors LLC) with a former Ehlers partner to focus on another passion of mine – we have developed a unique model for Workforce Housing finance!