Women of Distinction 2022: Visit Milwaukee

This special section features some of our city’s most accomplished female leaders. These women represent a wide range of fields, from finance and education to hospitality, beauty and more. Join us in saluting them in our fourth annual Women of Distinction section!

Clockwise from top left: Claire Koenig, Communications Director; Leslie Johnson, Vice President of Sales; Michelle Haider, Director of Event Experience; Meg Mckenna, Senior Director of Strategic and Community Partnerships; Charlotte Hayslett, Vice President of HR; Photo by Boutique Photographer Linda Smallpage


Over the past two decades, Milwaukee has risen to new heights. From the Deer District to the Bradley Symphony Center and from 3rd Street Market Hall to America’s Black Holocaust Museum, dozens of developments have improved the city. And VISIT Milwaukee, our city’s convention and visitor’s bureau, has been spreading the news nationwide. The organization showcases the city in national media outlets, brings major meetings, sports events and conventions to town, such as the Republican National Convention in 2024, and is even producing a TV show called “Good Things Brewing,” which it plans to shop to a network to air this fall. VISIT Milwaukee is led by Peggy Williams-Smith, its first female president and CEO, who since 2019 has assembled a strong team of predominantly women to shepherd in this new era of tourism in Milwaukee. “These women are ambassadors for Milwaukee in more than just their professional lives. They are passionate, thoughtful advocates for this community in all they do, whether it’s for VISIT Milwaukee or the numerous associations, nonprofits and civic groups they work with,” Williams-Smith says. “Every day, they’re working to make sure that every guest who comes to Milwau-kee has the best possible time when they’re here. And our goal is that every visitor and resident of Milwaukee becomes an ambassador, too, who can then encourage their friends and family to experience the city’s vibrancy right along with them.”

“This team is helping to move Milwaukee forward and showcase all we have to offer.”


-Peggy Williams-Smith


What drew you to VISIT Milwaukee? 

Peggy Williams-Smith: I was born and raised here in the city. I love everything about Milwaukee, and for 22 years, I got to promote Milwaukee through my work at Marcus Hotels. When the opportunity presented itself to market and sell the city at a much broader scale with Visit Milwaukee, I was excited to take that chance. Now I lead the team that does that every day. 

Can you tell us a bit about your team at Visit Milwaukee?  

PWS: I have the most wonderful team of passionate promoters of the city. They wake up every day, saying, ‘How can I put Milwaukee in the best possible light? How can I sell Milwaukee to everyone I come across? How can I make sure that we represent the diversity and the breadth of Milwaukee? And how can I make sure that every guest who comes to Milwaukee has the best possible time when they’re here?’ 

Charlotte Hayslett, our Vice President of HR, is responsible for the culture that we create within the organization. As everyone knows, if you’re not happy where you work then you’re not good at selling what your selling, so it all starts with HR. Leslie Johnson, who’s our Vice President of Sales, spends every day with her team making sure that we’re front and center at trade shows, that we’re putting our best foot forward so that people know why they should bring their convention to Milwaukee. Claire Koenig, our Communications Director, spends every day figuring out ways to pitch to various news media outlets on why Milwaukee is so great. Meg McKenna goes out with her team as the Senior Director of Strategic and Community Partnerships to ensure that we’re representing the best that Milwaukee has to offer, and that we have a seat at the table in conversations where we can help move Milwaukee forward. And then Michelle Haider, our Director of Event Experience, ensures that visitors and people who live in the city of Milwaukee, understand all that Milwaukee has to offer. 


This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine’s November issue.

Find it on newsstands or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop

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