Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. Announces Appointment of Mary L. Schanning as General Counsel and Chief Administrative Officer

Posted: Dec 09, 2021

MILWAUKEE, WI (December 9, 2021) – Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. (MWF) announced today that Milwaukee attorney Mary Schanning will become General Counsel and Chief Administrative Officer of the organization, effective December 20, 2021.  Schanning will take over for MWF veteran General Counsel Frank Nicotera when he retires at the end of 2021.

Schanning comes to the position with experience closely related to the unique nature of MWF’s development, management, and stewardship of Henry Maier Festival Park, given her work at the City of Milwaukee.  Prior to her recent post as Real Estate Compliance Liaison Officer with the City of Milwaukee, Schanning had almost a decade of experience within the City Attorney’s office, serving as Deputy City Attorney from April 2016 — February 2021.  While at the City, she supervised a team of attorneys representing the City of Milwaukee and its Redevelopment Authority and Housing Authority, the Port of Milwaukee, Milwaukee Public Library and Milwaukee Public Schools.

Schanning has also been an active participant in recent civic initiatives, having provided project oversight for the City’s role in the development of the Fiserv Forum, The Hop Streetcar, the Lakefront Gateway Project, the Northwestern Mutual Tower, and the Couture residential tower. She also negotiated leases for Discovery World, the Milwaukee Art Museum, and Harbor House restaurant.

Schanning also has direct experience with events, having been instrumental in the City’s negotiations to host the 2020 Democratic National Convention. And, while it may have been a few decades past, Schanning was once a bartender for Summerfest. Today, she continues to be an avid festival attendee.

“I have always been impressed with Mary’s ability to collaborate with a diverse group of stakeholders, in addition to her proven track record and commitment to our community,” said Don Smiley, President and CEO of Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. “I am confident she will bring these unique abilities, as well as her impressive legal background to this role. Mary is a fantastic lawyer with great insights and she is a wonderful person.”

“I am thrilled to be joining the MWF team.  I have always been a big fan and supporter of Summerfest and look forward to playing a role in keeping it successful for many years to come,” said Mary Schanning.  “I have known Frank Nicotera for several years and realize that I have very big shoes to fill as he retires, but I am ready to meet that challenge.  While my 10 years working for the City of Milwaukee have been wonderful and rewarding, I look forward to the changes and challenges that this new opportunity with MWF will bring.”

Schanning is admitted to the State Bar of Wisconsin and the Eastern District of Wisconsin. She is currently on the State Bar of Wisconsin Board of Governors and is a former President of the State Bar Government Lawyers Division Board. From 2017 – 2018, Schanning served on the Wisconsin Supreme Court Appointment Selection Committee.

About Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. 
Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. is an independent, private 501(c)(3) corporation founded in 1965 that produces Summerfest presented by American Family Insurance, a three-weekend music festival featuring over 800 artists across 12 stages.  Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. also maintains and improves Henry Maier Festival Park, located on 75 acres on the shores of Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, WI.  In addition to Summerfest, Henry Maier Festival Park hosts a variety of ethnic and cultural festivals, concerts, walks, runs, and other special events, attracting nearly 1.3 million people.  The mission of the organization is to promote an understanding of different ethnic cultures, the histories and traditions of various nationalities, harmony in the community, civic pride as well as to provide a showcase for performing arts, activities, and recreation for the public and employment opportunities for the youth of the community. For more details, visit,, Twitter: @Summerfest or Instagram: @Summerfest. 

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