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Ousted leaders of Milwaukee’s DNC host committee replaced

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — New leaders of the Democratic National Convention’s local committee in Milwaukee were announced Friday, replacing previous ones who were fired amid allegations that they oversaw a toxic work environment.

The hirings come three weeks after a shakeup of the previous leadership team and less than five months before the Democrats’ showcase political event to nominate their candidate for president.

The board of directors of the host committee announced that Raquel Filmanowicz will serve as CEO and Paula Penebaker will be the chief operating officer. Filmanowicz works as director of U.S. community giving for BMO Harris Bank and previously served in the administration of Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Penebaker previously served as chief executive officer of YWCA Southeast Wisconsin, where she worked for 20 years.

“The new leadership team of the host committee brings fresh perspective and strong Wisconsin roots to our planning efforts and will help ensure that the 2020 Democratic National Convention is an inspiring experience, not only for the people of Milwaukee but also for the nation,” said Joe Solmonese, chief executive of the convention.

They will start work next week and replace Liz Gilbert and Adam Alonso, who were fired on Feb. 4.

The host committee is a civic, nonpartisan group responsible for raising $70 million, recruiting 15,000 volunteers and providing buildings needed to put on the convention in July. The Democratic National Convention Committee runs the convention and is separate from the host committee.

Teresa Vilmain, a veteran Democratic operative and Wisconsin native, had served as an interim director and will remain as a senior adviser along with Shirley Ellis and Phil Walzak.

Filmanowicz said in a statement that she was committed to raising the money, recruiting the volunteers and doing the work “to make this convention the best in history.”

Barrett, in a statement, offered “enthusiastic support” and said the hires reinforce his confidence in Milwaukee’s ability to deliver a quality national convention. Filmanowicz previously worked as health operations manager for the Milwaukee Health Department under Barrett’s administration.

“These highly-respected civic leaders have served the Milwaukee community well for decades and will no doubt successfully lead the host committee as we prepare for this historic moment in July,” said Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, of Milwaukee. She is also a chair of the host committee.

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