Paul Upchurch to resign as VISIT Milwaukee president and CEO later this year

National search has begun for new leader

VISIT Milwaukee president and CEO Paul Upchurch will step down at the end of 2019 after nine years of leadership, the visitors bureau announced Monday.

Upchurch will remain in his role through Dec. 31 to assist with securing necessary approvals for a convention center expansion and to help plan the leadership transition, according to the announcement. 

“It’s been a privilege to lead this amazing organization that is critical to the future of our city,” said Upchurch in a statement. “After more than nine years, it’s the right time for me to pass the torch to the next leader.”

Upchurch during an interview with BizTimes Milwaukee said his immediate retirement focus is his work with VISIT Milwaukee, but will discuss other plans at a later date. He said he has watched the public perception of Milwaukee develop throughout his tenure.

“It’s been an honor to see how the perception has changed,” Upchurch said. “There are very few people who don’t know about the excitement in Milwaukee right now.”

Effective immediately, VISIT Milwaukee will begin a national search for a new president and CEO. That effort is being led by Omar Shaikh, board chair and co-owner and president of SURG Restaurant Group LLC, who has formed a local search committee made up of six VISIT Milwaukee board members, he said. 

The board anticipates it will onboard a new leader by year’s end.

Upchurch assumed his position in March of 2010. During his tenure, tourism spending in the Milwaukee area doubled from $1.6 billion in 2011 to $3.2 billion in 2018. One of his major accomplishments was recently assisting local officials in securing Milwaukee’s bid to host the Democratic National Convention in July 2020. 

“We thank Paul for his many years of leadership and his dedication to VISIT Milwaukee and our community,” said Shaikh. “The board and I are working with VISIT Milwaukee leadership to ensure a smooth transition for our members, our staff, our community partners and all of our important stakeholders.”

Upchurch has a total of 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry. Before joining VISIT Milwaukee, he served as COO at Chicago-based TCA Holdings and as vice president of hotel operations at Marcus Hotels and Resorts, the hospitality arm of Milwaukee-based Marcus Corp.

Upchurch is currently chair of the Governor’s Council on Tourism and chair of the state Department of Tourism’s Joint Effort Marketing Grant Committee and sits on the boards of Milwaukee Downtown BID 21, Milwaukee RiverWalk District, Wisconsin Hotel & Lodging Association, Wisconsin Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus. He also chaired the City of Milwaukee’s Image Committee.

VISIT Milwaukee president and CEO Paul Upchurch will step down at the end of 2019 after nine years of leadership, the visitors bureau announced Monday.

Upchurch will remain in his role through Dec. 31 to assist with securing necessary approvals for a convention center expansion and to help plan the leadership transition, according to the announcement. 

“It’s been a privilege to lead this amazing organization that is critical to the future of our city,” said Upchurch in a statement. “After more than nine years, it’s the right time for me to pass the torch to the next leader.”

Upchurch during an interview with BizTimes Milwaukee said his immediate retirement focus is his work with VISIT Milwaukee, but will discuss other plans at a later date. He said he has watched the public perception of Milwaukee develop throughout his tenure.

“It’s been an honor to see how the perception has changed,” Upchurch said. “There are very few people who don’t know about the excitement in Milwaukee right now.”

Effective immediately, VISIT Milwaukee will begin a national search for a new president and CEO. That effort is being led by Omar Shaikh, board chair and co-owner and president of SURG Restaurant Group LLC, who has formed a local search committee made up of six VISIT Milwaukee board members, he said. 

The board anticipates it will onboard a new leader by year’s end.

Upchurch assumed his position in March of 2010. During his tenure, tourism spending in the Milwaukee area doubled from $1.6 billion in 2011 to $3.2 billion in 2018. One of his major accomplishments was recently assisting local officials in securing Milwaukee’s bid to host the Democratic National Convention in July 2020. 

“We thank Paul for his many years of leadership and his dedication to VISIT Milwaukee and our community,” said Shaikh. “The board and I are working with VISIT Milwaukee leadership to ensure a smooth transition for our members, our staff, our community partners and all of our important stakeholders.”

Upchurch has a total of 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry. Before joining VISIT Milwaukee, he served as COO at Chicago-based TCA Holdings and as vice president of hotel operations at Marcus Hotels and Resorts, the hospitality arm of Milwaukee-based Marcus Corp.

Upchurch is currently chair of the Governor’s Council on Tourism and chair of the state Department of Tourism’s Joint Effort Marketing Grant Committee and sits on the boards of Milwaukee Downtown BID 21, Milwaukee RiverWalk District, Wisconsin Hotel & Lodging Association, Wisconsin Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus. He also chaired the City of Milwaukee’s Image Committee.

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