By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Apr 08, 2004 at 10:28 AM

{image1} Milwaukee World Festival announced today the hiring of Don Smiley as its new chief executive officer. The Racine native and former president of the Florida Marlins will replace Bo Black as the head of Summerfest.

Smiley, who attended the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, will report for work on or before June 1, according to Summerfest officials. He will earn $225,000 annually as part of a three-year deal.

"Don Smiley is an experienced chief executive and an outstanding choice to lead Summerfest and Milwaukee World Festival," said Milwaukee World Fesitval Board President Howard Schnoll. "He not only has local roots and a connection to this community, but he also brings to the table a valuable national perspective, experience and contacts. We are excited to have Don in the newly created position of CEO, and look forward to the continued growth and success of Summerfest and Milwaukee's renowned ethnic and cultural festivals under his leadership."

Prior to joining the Marlins, Smiley worked for Blockbuster Entertainment Corp. in various positions, including assistant to the Chairman of the Board. He led a number of the company's early marketing and branding programs, and helped grow Blockbuster into a position of world leadership in the video rental and entertainment industry.

Smiley has also successfully served as executive director of the Honda Classic golf tournament, one of the top events on the PGA Tour, and vice president of marketing for Huizenga Holdings. Most recently, he was owner and president of Smiley/Chirkinian Golf Ventures, Inc., which organized and developed a junior golf championship tour.

In September, the Board voted to conduct a national search for a new leader after deciding not to renew the contract of then-Executive Director Elizabeth "Bo" Black. More than 100 people applied for the job, Schnoll said.

"We had an incredible array of candidates from all over the country to choose from, which is a testament to the quality of this organization and the reputation of Summerfest and the ethnic festivals," he said. "We had many excellent candidates for the position, and we considered a broad range of diverse and talented people, including women and minorities and local and national candidates. Throughout the interviews and the selection process, Don showed that he was the best person for the job."

Schnoll said that among the priorities for Smiley would be finding ways to expand use of the festival grounds, keeping Summerfest and the ethnic festivals affordable and connected to the community, expanding the range of activities offered during the daytime and midweek at Summerfest, and finalizing and implementing a new strategic plan.

"Don's challenges are many, but we have a great staff already on board that has been busy planning this year's Summerfest and schedule of ethnic festivals and other activities," Schnoll said. "We are in good shape for the coming festival season, and Don is looking forward to working with and learning from the rest of our team."