Joel Brennan was selected as president of the Greater Milwaukee Committee in December 2021. Prior to accepting this position, he served as the Secretary of the Department of Administration in Governor Tony Evers’ administration, beginning in January 2019. He was confirmed for that position by a unanimous vote of the Wisconsin State Senate in October 2019.
Brennan brings more than 25 years of experience working in the public and private sectors in Wisconsin.
As Secretary of the Department of Administration, Brennan led a State Agency of nearly 1,500 employees that has broad enterprise-wide responsibilities affecting more than 35,000 state employees.
In addition to developing the State of Wisconsin’s biennial budget, the Department also manages the relationships with the 11 federally recognized Native American Tribes in Wisconsin and regulates tribal gaming across the state.
Brennan and the Department provided strategic direction and management for major aspects of federal funding to support both the public health and economic response to COVID-19. This included the direction and execution of nearly $2 billion in support under the 2020 Federal CARES Act and more than $2.5 billion in federal support received from the 2021 America Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Working with the Governor and other stakeholders, Brennan and his team helped direct hundreds of millions of dollars to support small businesses and industries most negatively affected by the economic hardships created by COVID-19, particularly in the areas of dining, hospitality, lodging and tourism.
Prior to his work in Gov. Evers’ administration, Brennan served as President & CEO of Discovery World from October 2007 through January 2019. Located on Milwaukee’s lakefront, Discovery World is Wisconsin’s premier science and technology center, providing interactive exhibits and science-based educational programs that were enjoyed by more than 325,000 families and students from throughout the area in 2018.
Under Brennan’s leadership, Discovery World turned multi-million dollar operating deficits into surpluses and eliminated millions in capital debt. In 2018, Discovery World completed a $13 million update that added more than 20,000 sq. ft. of new interactive space to the facility. During this time, Discovery World forged many strategic community partnerships and expanded its innovative educational programs to neighborhoods of need, including a Summer Camp program that brings more than 1,700 students to the lakefront for week-long camps in engineering, robotics, design, freshwater science and other disciplines.
Prior to leading Discovery World, Brennan served as the head of Milwaukee’s Redevelopment Authority, where he directed real estate development and large impact economic development projects. Major successes during his tenure include the continued Menomonee Valley redevelopment, Manpower World Headquarters’ relocation to downtown Milwaukee, reconstruction of the Milwaukee Intermodal Station, and redevelopment of the former Pabst Brewery site.
Brennan also served as Vice President of Development and Government Affairs for the Greater Milwaukee Convention & Visitors Bureau (now Visit Milwaukee), working to attract businesses and visitors to Greater Milwaukee and mobilizing the tourism community, industry partners, and area residents. Early in his career, he also worked in government relations at the Miller Brewing Company. He brings a broad and diverse background from Wisconsin State Government.
Joel Brennan grew up in the Milwaukee area and worked his way through Marquette University, graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in English. He was selected as a Harris Fellow at the University of Chicago and earned a master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. Brennan lives with his wife Audra and their two teenage children, Allison and Conor, in Milwaukee.