VISIT Milwaukee Announces New Vice President and First-Ever Director of Community Engagement & Inclusion

VISIT Milwaukee Announces New Vice President

MILWAUKEE – (January 9, 2024) Today VISIT Milwaukee is thrilled to
announce two promotions that will help the company reach its strategic
goals to drive increased economic impact to Milwaukee, while ensuring
the benefits of tourism are spread to every neighborhood and throughout
the region.

The first of these is the promotion of Claire Koenig, who will now serve
as the Vice President of Communications & Advocacy. In this role, Claire
will continue to oversee the company’s internal and external
communications, its government affairs work, and now its community
engagement and DEI strategies.

The second promotion is for Tony Snell Rodriguez, who will serve as the
organization’s Director of Community Engagement & Inclusion, the first
time such a role has existed for the company. Now a part of the
Communications team, Tony will manage and enhance efforts to bring
forward the interests of the regional tourism industry and the
organization to community decision-makers, while making certain that the
community’s priorities are reflected in VISIT Milwaukee’s destination
marketing strategy. Tony will serve as the main point of contact between
BID, NIDS, municipalities and the nonprofit community, while maintaining
the organization’s giving strategy to ensure that the powerful impact of
the travel and tourism industry reaches across all communities.  

“This shift in roles doesn’t just recognize the caliber of Claire
and Tony’s work, it better positions VISIT Milwaukee for the years
ahead to meet the needs of our community and to further the company’s
mission to create economic impact and support a stronger, more inclusive
community,” says Peggy Williams-Smith, president and CEO. “I
couldn’t be more excited for the work they’ll do together, and I
know their impact will be immense.”

In line with the national destination marketing industry, VISIT
Milwaukee is using the momentum of 2024 as an opportunity to realign its
overarching community engagement plans to reach even more stakeholders
and form deeper ties throughout the community. While VISIT Milwaukee’s
mission is to bring visitors to the community, residents remain the
company’s most important stakeholders. This refreshed approach
reflects that. Additionally, since 2020, VISIT Milwaukee has made equity
and inclusion a permanent part of each of the company’s strategic
goals and the creation of Tony’s position ensures that the
organization will remain accountable to this commitment for years to

Claire started with VISIT Milwaukee as a communications manager in 2017.
Under her leadership, Milwaukee has garnered positive recognition in
National Geographic, Conde Nast Traveler and Wall Street Journal, among
others. She played a critical role in bringing Bravo’s “Top Chef”
to the state, while helping to produce the organization’s
Emmy-nominated television show “Good Things Brewing.” Last year she
engaged with key stakeholders to support the increased sales tax and the
effort to keep the Milwaukee Brewers in the market. And alongside her
peers in local government, as well as the MMAC and MKE 2024 Host
Committee, she leads a group of communications leaders who are working
to ensure that the community garners the best coverage possible in the
lead-up to and during the 2024 Republican National Convention. In 2021
she was recognized with the Wisconsin Governors Council on Tourism’s
Rising Star Award, and in 2022 she was named a rising star in PR News’
Top Women in PR Awards. As an active member of the community, she serves
on the boards of the Milwaukee Press Club, Imagine MKE and Pabst
Mansion. She also serves on PRSA’s Travel & Tourism’s Executive
Committee and co-chairs Destinations International’s PR Committee.
Prior to her time at VISIT Milwaukee, she worked as a journalist.

Tony also started with the company in 2017 as its volunteer coordinator
after serving as a volunteer for two years. Since then, Tony has
stewarded VISIT Milwaukee’s volunteer corps, while shepherding a
community activation strategy using the company’s mobile visitor
center, an asset which he brought to life from securing funding to
implementation. Tony has also led the company’s internal culture
committee, which is tasked with planning both internal and external
activations that sustain a positive company culture. Based on the
success of his role at VISIT Milwaukee, Tony served as senior director
of volunteer management for the 2020 Democratic National Convention Host
Committee, an effort for which he created a database of 20,000
volunteers, and then worked as the Wisconsin Coalitions Deputy Director
for President Biden’s successful 2020 campaign.

In addition to his work for VISIT Milwaukee, he has served on the City
of Milwaukee’s Equal Rights Commission (ERC) since 2017 and has been
its chair since 2019. As ERC Chair, he has championed a policy for an
inclusive, adaptive bike-share program for persons with disabilities;
successfully spearheaded the initiative for Milwaukee to achieve a
perfect 100 score on the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index
(MEI) by advancing inclusive LGBTQ policies; and advanced discrimination
protections in the City of Milwaukee based on hairstyles associated with
racial, ethnic or other cultural identity. Other areas of Tony’s
experience include serving as a member of the Destinations International
EDI Committee and Destinations International Community Connection
Professionals Task Force. In addition, he is a member of the City of
Milwaukee’s Racial Equity and Inclusion Leadership Team, Milwaukee
Health Department Equity Advisory Committee, Milwaukee Fire Department
DEI Workgroup, and Milwaukee 2024 Plan Community Council. He has
previously served as a board member of the Milwaukee LGBT Community
Center and Milwaukee Pride. Prior to his time at VISIT Milwaukee, Tony
worked in the hospitality industry in food and beverage management. He
is currently the president of his condo association.

Click here for Claire and Tony’s high-resolution headshots. [3]

VISIT Milwaukee creates economic impact and supports a stronger, more
inclusive community by promoting the Greater Milwaukee area as a premier
tourism destination. Strengthened by VISIT Milwaukee’s dynamic
convention and leisure marketing initiatives, tourism to Milwaukee
contributes $6.018 billion to the local economy, supporting over 43,000
hospitality employees. VISIT Milwaukee has over 950 members, including
hotels/motels, restaurants, attractions, services, and area businesses.
The Wisconsin Center District, which is undergoing a large-scale
expansion slated for completion in 2024, the city of Wauwatosa, and
Potawatomi Casino | Hotel are strategic partners with VISIT Milwaukee,
providing funding support for conventions and tourism programs. For more
information call (800) 554-1448 or visit [4]  

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