Downtown Summit Bios


Bill Armbruster, Advisor, Livable Communities, AARP
Bill Armbruster has been with AARP since 2000. In his role, Bill serves as a national advisor for states and communities as they strive to become more livable for people of all generations—looking at issues of housing, transportation, outdoor spaces, health and more. He coordinates the AARP Network of Age Friendly Communities (which currently has over 110 communities enrolled, impacting over 52 million lives), as well as managing partnerships on Tactical Urbanism, Active Transportation and Walkability.
601 E St. NW, Washington, DC 20049 | 585-729-1850 |

Jessica Beckendorf, Community Development Educator, Waupaca County UW-Extension
Jessica Beckendorf became passionate about communities while growing up as a military kid, making frequent cross-country moves and living in many communities of various sizes. After obtaining her Bachelor of Arts in urban and regional studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, she proceeded to work in just about every sector of community development—Geographic Information Systems, urban planning and zoning, and economic development. In 2014, Jessica finished her Masters of Arts in communications & leadership studies from Gonzaga University, and began her journey as an educator with the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension where her current focus includes facilitating an environment conducive to resilient communities.
811 Harding St, Waupaca, WI 54981 | 715-258-6230 |

Tricia Braun, Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer, WEDC
Tricia Braun is the Deputy Secretary and chief operating officer for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). Previously WEDC’s vice president of economic and community development, Tricia brings more than 17 years of economic development leadership experience in three states. Before joining WEDC in November 2013, she was the director of economic development in Riverside, CA, a city of more than 300,000 people. In that role, she oversaw the attraction and subsequent construction of numerous major commercial and industrial projects that brought thousands of new jobs and several hundred million dollars in new capital investment to Riverside. A graduate of University of WisconsinRiver Falls, Tricia has also served as community development director in Zumbrota, MN and as executive director of the River Falls Area Chamber of Commerce.
P.O. Box 1687, Madison, WI 53701 | 608-210-6807 |

Steven Chmielewski, Community Educator, Financial Management Program, Waukesha County UW-Extension
Steven Chmielewski has worked as a community educator with the Waukesha Count y UW-Extension for 12 years. Through his role, he promotes locally-driven strategies by partnering with community members, local governments, civic groups, non-profit organizations, small businesses and community leaders. Steve’s specialization areas include neighborhood revitalization, small business development and strategic planning for non-profits and municipalities. Steve holds a Bachelor of Science in elementary education from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a Master of Education in teaching, learning and leadership from Cardinal Stritch University.
515 W. Moreland Blvd., AC-22, Waukesha, WI 53188 | 262-548-7781 |

Jerry Deschane, Executive Director, League of Wisconsin Municipalities
Jerry Deschane is the Executive Director of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities. He started working for the League in 2014 after a 20-year career in lobbying and association management. He has worked with clients ranging from the home building industry to bicyclists. He’s been on school boards for over sixteen years and has also worked as an association management consultant and author. Jerry is a native of Wisconsin. CONTACT JERRY
608-347-1792 |

Jason Gilman, Director of Planning & Development, City of La Crosse
Jason Gilman, AICP is the current Director of Planning and Development for the City of La Crosse. Jason is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and has nearly 30 years of public and private sector planning and landscape architecture experience. Jason has served both the Wisconsin and Minnesota Board of Directors Chapters of the American Planning Association and also served as the President of the Wisconsin Downtown Action Council. Jason has also served as an adjunct professor in State and Local Politics and Environmental Policy at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Winona State University.
400 La Crosse Street, La Crosse, WI 54601 | 608-789-7362 |

Patrick Hughes, Jr., CEO & Founder, Inclusion Solutions
Patrick Hughes started Inclusion Solutions in 2000 based on the simple idea that all people deserve equal access. By talking to business owners and election officials, Patrick found that despite a willingness to implement practical and affordable solutions to find compliance with the ADA, many businesses and communities were unable to find solutions within their economic means. Patrick engaged the community in developing his first product, the BigBell. Inclusion Solutions now has been featured in Entrepreneur Magazine and has worked with high profile Midwest businesses such as Hy-Vee and Culver’s. Patrick previously founded and served as the Executive Director of the non-profit organization, Natural Ties, dedicated to fostering relationships and friendships between people with disabilities and those without. Under his leadership the organization grew to 14 chapters on college campuses around the country. He is currently active as a board member of RESULTS, and has served on the board of Equip for Equality, an organization dedicated to advancing civil rights of children and adults with disabilities in Illinois.
2000 Greenleaf St, Suite 3, Evanston, IL 60202 | 847-869-2500 |

Melissa Kono, Community Development Educator, Clark County UW-Extension
Melissa Kono is an Associate Professor in the Community Resource Department with the University of Wisconsin-Extension in Clark County where she works with a variety of local economic development projects including downtown revitalization, Placemaking, First Impressions, and building organizational capacity with community improvement groups. Ms. Kono has a master’s degree in public policy and economic development from the Humphrey Institute for Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.
517 Court St, Room 104, Neilsville, WI | 715-743-5121 |

Robin Moses, Executive Director, Downtown Mainstreet, Inc.
Robin Moses has been the Executive Director of Downtown Mainstreet, La Crosse since 2013. Downtown Mainstreet was created in 1990 to oversee, coordinate and facilitate the revitalization of La Crosse’s central business district. Robin worked to become a proud member of the Wisconsin Main Street program in 2014, and collaborates with the entire community to advocate for the positive growth and continued revitalization of downtown La Crosse. Robin previously attended college in La Crosse and was fortunate to find the opportunity to relocate and work with Downtown Mainstreet. Prior to moving back to La Crosse, Robin was a design and marketing professional with experience working with businesses, downtown BIDs and public organizations to enhance public image through graphic design, event planning, public relations and superior marketing strategies in Eau Claire, Wisconsin for over 20 years.
500 Main St., La Crosse, WI 54601 | 608-784-0440

Ben Muldrow, Partner, Arnett Muldrow & Associates
Ben Muldrow, a Partner at Arnett Muldrow & Associates, has created more community branding systems than anyone else in the world. Ben is responsible for all community marketing and branding functions of the Greenville, SC-based urban planning firm and leads their Mid-Atlantic office from Milford, Delaware. Ben helps communities to develop their brand identity through an open process including public design sessions and collaborative small groups. As the pioneer of the groundbreaking process, Ben has designed new branding and marketing elements for revitalization projects in over 450 communities in 35 states. Ben is the founder of Downtown America, a national organization fostering downtown innovation.

Patrick Nehring, Community Development Educator, Waushara County UW-Extension
Patrick Nehring is a professor with the University of Wisconsin-Extension and the Community, Natural Resource, and Economic Development agent for UW-Extension Waushara County. For 16 years he has been providing instruction and information about issues related to organizational development, leadership, personality temperament/schema and generation characteristics, local government operations, community planning, economic development, poverty, demographics, lakes, groundwater, and natural resources to local governments, non-profit organizations, businesses, and individuals. He has a Bachelor of Science in architectural studies, a master’s degree in urban planning, and a graduate certificate in Geographic Information Systems from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and is a member of the American Planning Association’s American Institute of Certified Planners. Prior to working for UW-Extension, he was a downtown Main Street program manager and interned at a city planning department and a business improvement district.
P.O. Box 487, Wautoma, WI 54982 | 920-787-0416 |

Bill Ryan, Community and Business Development Specialist, UW-Extension
Bill Ryan has been with the University of Wisconsin-Extension since 1991 as a specialist in downtown and tourism business development. He assists economic development and business leaders in identifying realistic business and real estate development opportunities. He has co-authored an on-line downtown market analysis toolbox which is used nationwide. Prior to his employment with the University of Wisconsin-Extension, Bill was employed in market analysis and real estate development in Boston. Bill earned a MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Bachelor of Science from Cornell University.
329 Lowell Center, 610 Langdon St, Madison, WI 53703 | 608-263-4994 |

Christian Schmieder, Qualitative Research Specialist, UW-Extension
Christian Schmieder joined UW-Extension in 2015 as a Qualitative Research Specialist in the Program Development and Evaluation Unit. Christian specializes in building intellectual and technical infranstruc-tures for collecting, making accessible, and analyzing large qualitative and quantitative data sets. In ad-dition, he serves as a consultant for qualitative analysis technology, qualitative methods and innovative evaluation strategies to educators, researchers, research teams and leadership teams across UW-Extension.
432 N. Lake Street — Room 613, Madison, WI 53706 |

Beth Weirick, WDAC Board President & CEO, Milwaukee Downtown BID #21
Beth Weirick is a self described Downtown lover and has been in the industry for over two decades. She is responsible for overseeing Business Improvement District operations; designing, implementing and managing programs to ensure that Downtown Milwaukee is a clean, safe and friendly destination for visitors, residents and businesses; District strategic planning; marketing and communications; and representation of the District to local, state and national audiences. Ms. Weirick serves as Chair of the Community Intervention team to end homelessness and public nuisance behaviors. She also serves as Director of Milwaukee Downtown, Inc., a not-for-profit agency that focuses on special events, downtown marketing, research and community collaboration. Beth has been in the industry of promoting downtown Milwaukee for over two decades and always knew that Milwaukee is a great product – she just wants to make sure the rest of the world knows this too.


BILL ARMBRUSTER, Advisor, Livable Communities, AARP
Bill has been with AARP since 2000. In his role, Bill serves as a national advisor for states and communities as they strive to become more livable for people of all generations—looking at issues of housing, transportation, outdoor spaces, health and more. He coordinates the AARP Network of Age Friendly Communities (which currently has over 110 communities enrolled, impacting over 52 million lives), as well as managing partnerships on Tactical Urbanism, Active Transportation and Walkability.

Along with his 16 years at AARP, Bill has a background in Healthcare and Ergonomics and integrates those principles with his livable communities expertise to help communities create a better vision for sustainable, livable communities for all generations.

601 E St. NW, Washington, DC 20049 | 585-729-1850 |

MARINA DVORAK, Share & Be Aware Ambassador for the Wisconsin Bike Fed

Marina Dvorak is a Share & Be Aware Ambassador for the Wisconsin Bike Fed, while also finishing her final semester at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. She is majoring in organizational & professional communication studies with a minor in environmental studies and philosophy. Marina is a committee member for the UW La Crosse ON-THE-GO Steering Committee. She is a former Bicycle/Pedestrian Intern with the City of La Crosse Planning Department and co-chairs the UW La Crosse Students for Sustainability organization.

“Embracing active transportation is an essential part of making your Downtown areas thrive. Creating bicycle and pedestrian friendly spaces encourages healthy, active communities—and safety and accessibility are vital for creating safe and livable downtown areas.”

414-533-9308 |

JAMES LONGHURST, Associate Professor of History, UW-La Crosse

James Longhurst is a historian of urban and environmental policy, and the author of the book Bike Battles: A History of Sharing the American Road (2015). He is an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, with a Ph.D. in history and policy from Carnegie Mellon University. Longhurst is a bike advocate involved in local transportation politics and a volunteer at Bicycle La Crosse (a project of the La Crosse Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau). The Wisconsin Bike Fed named him “Advocate of the Year” in 2016.

“The shape, size, and success of cities are products of transportation, and biking and walking are efficient and cost-effective ways to bring workers, shoppers, and people to downtowns. In the midst of nationwide movements to bring bike share, new protected bike facilities, and active transportation to American cities, the example of La Crosse can show the benefits and difficulties of re-shaping the ways that people get to their downtowns.”

1725 State Street, La Crosse, WI 54601 | 608-785-8344 |

JEN WALKER, Active Communities Coordinator, healthTIDE

Jen Walker is the Active Communities Coordinator for healthTIDE, Wisconsin’s statewide healthy communities movement. She serves as a connector, convener and facilitator, allowing state and local stakeholders to identify and advance shared interests in creating healthier communities. Previously she managed North Carolina’s Fit Communities grant initiative, working directly with communities on projects to create more active living and healthy eating environments. Jen holds dual masters’ degrees in public health and city and regional planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a BA from Lawrence University of Wisconsin.

“Thriving downtowns that people can reach by foot, bike, transit or car are connected to a local community’s health, quality of life and economic development. There are many opportunities for downtown advocates to partner with those in the healthy communities movement and advance shared goals around creating more vibrant local places that invite people to be out, active and connected in their communities.”

1100 Delaplaine Ct., Madison, WI 53715 | 608-212-6180 |

KRISTEN FISH, Managing Partner, Redevelopment Resources

Kristen Fish has 20 years of direct experience leading the business development efforts of a small municipality, and working in both media and manufacturing sectors. In 2009 she and two colleagues started Redevelopment Resources, an economic development consulting firm that operates throughout the Midwest. She has managed all aspects of a business development program including business recruitment, retention, entrepreneurial programming, marketing, local fund management and deal structuring. She has been a Board Member of the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) from 2006-present, and is a Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) through the International Economic Development Association.

“An engaging online presence for a downtown or municipality is a critical community asset not only for providing information to the public, but also for gathering public input on services, programs and items affecting residents and visitors alike. Utilizing technology to poll downtown patrons on an ongoing basis will provide an informed, balanced perspective upon which decisions can be based to make improvements to a downtown or entire community.”

211 S. Patterson St., Suite 320, Madison, WI 53703 | 715-581-1452 |

MARIAH HABERMAN, Host & Brand Manager, Discover Wisconsin

Mariah Haberman is the host and brand manager of the nation’s longest running tourism TV show, Discover Wisconsin. She travels the state to bring Wisconsin’s best foods, festivals, sights and activities to the living rooms of more than 500,000 loyal viewers across the Midwest each and every weekend. Mariah hails from Evansville, Wisconsin, where she was brought up in a family of seven in a small farmhouse outside of town. She hosts a statewide radio program Monday through Friday, authors a syndicated column about Wisconsin tourism and was selected to InBusiness Magazine’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2015. Watch Discover Wisconsin Saturdays at 10 a.m. on FSN Wisconsin’s outdoor block.

Social Media and Tourism: From Snapchat to Facebook live streams, learn how to better engage your target audience by leveraging the power of social media.


DAVID RICHARDS, Creative Director, BRING

David Richards grew up in Glasgow, Scotland and trained in London, before moving to work for some of the top agencies in Minneapolis, MN. He is one of the principals at BRING, a branding, creative and digital agency based in De Pere, Wisconsin. BRING has worked with many regional and national clients, including municipalities and Main Street programs looking to differentiate themselves through branding and to elevate their digital presence and inbound marketing.

David will discuss how to best position your downtown or Main Street for long term success and how best to communicate your brand promise through your website, social media and digital campaigns.

522 George St., De Pere, WI 54115 | 920-639-1814 |

LAURA TYUNAITIS, Marketing Coordinator, Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

Laura has been with the Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau for seven years. Her role includes managing the social media efforts for Visit Kenosha and Downtown Kenosha, as well as working on various special events in the area. She serves on the Kenosha Common Markets Board of Directors, the Kenosha County UW-Extension Youth As Resources Endowment Committee and is a proud alumna of Carthage College where she works closely with the Career Services Office and the Alumni Networking Program. Laura was born and raised in Kenosha, and loves that she has the opportunity to give back to her community by helping foster knowledge of and appreciation for all that the Kenosha area has to offer to local residents and visitors alike.

“Social media marketing is an effective tool in promoting your community, downtown district, and special events if you are patient and persistent. Facebook has been a primary platform for both Visit Kenosha and Downtown Kenosha.”

812 56th St., Kenosha, WI 53140 | 262-654-7307 ext. 12 |