Wisconsin (November 25, 2020) – Wisconsin Department of Tourism Secretary, Sara Meaney, will leave that role later this month, Gov. Tony Evers announced on Wednesday.
Meaney was appointed by Evers in December 2018 and has taken the position of Chief Marketing Officer with Milwaukee Film, a nonprofit arts organization that is “dedicated to entertaining, educating, and engaging our community through cinematic experiences, with a vision to make Milwaukee a center for film culture,” according to its website.
Gov. Evers described Meaney as “a relentless advocate for the tourism industry even before the pandemic, but especially as it has faced unprecedented challenges this past year.”
Here is Meaney’s letter to members of the Wisconsin tourism industry, sent Weds., November 25:
We have accomplished so much together, and I am filled with hope for a bright future for the Wisconsin tourism industry. And while we recover from this pandemic and the tourism industry reaches new heights, I will be viewing it through the eyes of a tourist once again.
It is with a heavy heart that I write to notify you that I have accepted an executive leadership role outside of state government that feeds my entrepreneurial spirit while allowing me to pursue my passion for social equity. While I will not be leading the charge as you climb to new heights, just know that I will be rooting for you every step of the way. There is no doubt that I will miss my team terribly, along with all the dedicated hospitality-minded people who promote Wisconsin. However, this was the right move for me and my family.
The decision to leave this esteemed position was difficult for me because together, we’ve already accomplished so much in such a short amount of time. I will forever be proud to have led the Department of Tourism to an industry-engaged strategic plan, helped restructure the Department’s advisory committees and refocused the internal workings of the Department, all while leading the tourism industry to our largest year on record in 2019. And on the heels of these heights, we quickly pivoted and led our industry through a global public health pandemic in 2020, delivering on needed financial support through advocacy and tenacity. Looking forward, I am confident that Travel Wisconsin’s brand evolution already under way – driven by consumer insights, strategic processes and your partnership – will help Wisconsin tourism bounce back to have an even bigger economic impact than taxpayers already enjoy.
I will forever be grateful to Governor Tony Evers for his leadership and for giving me the latitude to set a clear strategic vision, enact transformational change, drive record-setting successes, spur economic growth and lead the tourism industry through this pandemic. With data, collaboration and integrity at the forefront, I am immensely proud of the accomplishments achieved through times of shared success and unprecedented challenges.
While government was never intended to be a forever career choice for me, it offered a rare opportunity to serve the people of the state that I love. I will be forever proud to have achieved bipartisan support for the creation of the Office of Outdoor Recreation and to expand Wisconsin’s tourism promotion into new markets. I hope you will engage with the Department and your state lawmakers to ensure that bipartisan spirit extends into the next budget and beyond.
Through all of our decisions, I always remained mindful of the many tourism business owners and the more than 202,000 people who rely upon a tourism job for their income. Tourism is not only a big adventure, it’s big money for Wisconsin. The economic impact of leisure travel is profound and with an $8 to $1 return on investment, tourism promotion impacts everyone from the bike mechanic to the family who purchases the bikes to the people whose income relies upon those family cycling vacations.
Wisconsin tourism has a strong future ahead, under steady leadership. I chose Anne Sayers to be my Deputy Secretary because of her strong background in marketing, public relations and organizational management. She is a talented leader who has earned the trust and respect of the team. After my departure on December 11, I am confident Anne will serve you well as Acting Secretary until Governor Evers names my replacement.
In the words of one of my favorite American authors, Mark Twain, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness…”
There is a great big world out there and every day, you have the privilege to promote the greatest state in America. May your work promoting your community help other people understand one another a little more and get along with each other a little better each and every day. After all, travel is the only thing in life we pay for that actually makes us richer.
Secretary Sara Meaney