Keynote Bios


Ellen Lee, Director of Community and Economic Development, City of New Orleans , City of New Orleans, and Board Member, Center for Community Progress

Ellen M. Lee serves as the Director of Community and Economic Development for the City of New Orleans. The Director serves as an advisor to the Mayor and provides policy direction, management, and oversight of the department’s programmatic and administrative activities to address the city’s housing and community development needs. She also serves as the administration’s liaison to the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority and New Orleans Housing Authority. Ms. Lee returned to the public sector after serving nearly six years as Senior Vice President of Programs at the Greater New Orleans Foundation where she was responsible for the programmatic and grantmaking activity of the community foundation serving New Orleans and its 12 surrounding parishes.  She has also held the position of Assistant Director of the Disaster Recovery Unit within the State of Louisiana’s Office of Community Development, assisting in the administration of over $13 billion in federal funds for post-Katrina recovery. Ms. Lee holds B.S. Finance and MBA degrees from the University of New Orleans.

Sharon Adams, Co-Founder, Walnut Way Conservation Corporation

Sharon Adams believes deeply in the transformative power of collective action. When she and her husband Larry found an old Milwaukee neighborhood unsightly, they did not move away, they moved to make the changes. They founded Walnut Way Conservation Corporation, a community development corporation.

She has been a stimulus behind the changes witnessed in a 110-block area in central Milwaukee.  The couple founded Walnut Way Conservation Corporation in 2000 to create and sustain economically diverse neighborhoods.  Sharon fostered initiatives to engage neighbors; document the oral traditions of elders; reduce crime; introduce storm water management; demonstrate healthy food production, offer educational and recreational opportunities for youth. Revitalization resulted in $26 million in housing investment and more than $125 million in commercial projects in the 53205 and 53206 Zip codes. Leading efforts for environmental health, Walnut Way has grown into a neighborhood campus where neighbors, children and other transformative spirits engage in collaborative efforts to foster prosperity. Adams helped launch the Lindsay Heights Neighborhood Health Alliance and Lindsay Heights Commercial Corridors Committee, involving 40 medical, academic, government, business and resident partners.

Sharon Adams brings together resources and residents, business owners, nonprofits and a range of shareholders to improve equity, opportunity and cooperation within these neighborhoods. She is the recipient of several awards including a Purpose Prize Fellowship, the Frank Kirkpatrick Award from Greater Milwaukee Foundation, People’s Choice award from Local Initiative Support Corporation and the Business Journal Women of Influence.

In 2015, Sharon retired from Walnut Way.  She and her husband Larry formed HN Development to inspire possibilities for the common good.  Their current project is the Adams Garden Park, a real estate redevelopment to house environmental groups and business. She remains a board member of Walnut Way and MAKETPLACE BID 32 and lives in the Lindsay Heights neighborhood.

The Honorable Tom Barrett, Mayor, City of Milwaukee

As Milwaukee’s Chief Executive, Tom Barrett is making neighborhoods safer by strengthening public safety services, targeting gangs and illegal guns, and forging partnerships with neighborhood organizations. He is a founding member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

Mayor Barrett continues to strengthen the City’s economy by creating family-supporting jobs and provide assistance to entrepreneurs. He is creating hope in the lives of young people throughout the city with a number of workforce initiatives, including his Earn & Learn initiative. Under the leadership of Mayor Barrett, Earn & Learn has placed more than 28,000 youth in summer jobs since its inception.

Mayor Barrett has enacted his vision for a more sustainable Milwaukee by establishing the Environmental Collaboration Office (ECO), which promotes cost-effective sustainability practices that meet Milwaukee’s environmental, economic and social needs while enhancing economic growth. He is also one of the region’s greatest champions for the Great Lakes and is the past Chair of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, a binational organization comprised of local officials actively working to protect and restore the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. The Mayor is recognized as a national leader on storm water mitigation, sustainable manufacturing and urban agriculture.

Tom Barrett grew up on Milwaukee’s West side, graduated college and law school from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was a member of both the Wisconsin State Assembly and Senate and served five terms in the U.S. Congress.

Susan Lloyd, PhD, Executive Director, Zilber Family Foundation

Susan Lloyd directs the Zilber Family Foundation. The Foundation awards grants to nonprofits that address basic human needs, increase access to opportunity, and improve the quality of community life. In 2008 the Foundation began an Initiative to support local leaders and neighborhood groups as they develop and carry out plans for comprehensive community improvement. Previously, Susan directed grant programs at The MacArthur Foundation for 13 years; conducted academic research on the causes and consequences of violence for six years; and worked in human services agencies for ten years. She holds master’s and doctoral degrees in human development and social policy from Northwestern University, where she also was a National Science Foundation fellow on race and urban inequality.

Julia Taylor, President, Greater Milwaukee Committee

Julia Taylor was appointed as the first woman president of the Greater Milwaukee Committee in December 2002. The GMC convenes and collaborates with other organizations and groups in the community on an issueby-issue basis and leads by initiating projects and implementing strategies. The GMC membership is comprised of 200 CEOs and leaders in various sectors including business, labor, academic, philanthropy and nonprofit.

The GMC promotes collaboration on regional issues and opportunities through its initiatives in Innovation and Talent, Economic Prosperity and Vibrancy of Place. It acts as a creator on initiatives like Teachtown MKE, Scale Up Milwaukee, Innovation in Milwaukee, creative placemaking and MKE United. It is a collaborator on projects like Well City Milwaukee, BizStarts and regional transit. It is a catalyst for things like The Water Council and the Milwaukee 7. Many of the initiatives and projects of the GMC fall across two or three of these categories.

Before coming to the GMC, Ms. Taylor was president of the YWCA of Greater Milwaukee for 16 years. She currently serves on the boards of the United Performing Arts Fund, The Water Council, the University Club of Milwaukee and Milwaukee Film, and co-chaired UPAF’s 2009 campaign.

Alan Mallach, Senior Fellow, Center for Community Progress

Alan Mallach is a senior fellow at the Center for Community Progress in Washington, D.C. A city planner, advocate, and writer, he is nationally known for his work on housing, economic development, and urban revitalization, and has worked with local governments and community organizations across the country to develop creative policies and strategies to rebuild their cities and neighborhoods. A former director of housing & economic development in Trenton, New Jersey, he currently teaches in the graduate city planning program at Pratt Institute in New York City. He has spoken on housing and urban issues in the United States, Europe, Israel and Japan, and was a visiting scholar at the University of Nevada Las Vegas for the 2010-2011 academic year. His most recent book is The Divided City: Poverty and Prosperity in Urban America, while among his many other books, Bringing Buildings Back: From Vacant Properties to Community Assets has become a resource for thousands of planners, lawyers, public officials, and community leaders dealing with problem property and revitalization issues. He is a member of the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Certified Planners, and holds a B.A. degree from Yale University.

Mustafa Santiago Ali, Senior Vice President of Climate, Environmental Justice, & Community Revitalization

Mustafa Santiago Ali is a renowned national speaker, policy maker, community liaison, trainer, and facilitator. Mr. Ali specializes in social and environmental justice issues and is focused on a utilizing a holistic approach to revitalizing  vulnerable communities. He joined the Hip Hop Caucus, after working 24 years at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), where he most recently served as Senior Advisor for Environmental Justice and Community Revitalization. Throughout his career he has worked with over 500 domestic and international communities to improve people’s lives by addressing environmental, health, and economic justice issues.

Mr. Ali worked for EPA Administrators beginning with William Riley and ending with Scott Pruitt. He joined the EPA as a student and became a founding member of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ). He elevated environmental justice issues and worked across federal agencies to strengthen environmental justice policies, programs and initiatives.

Mustafa Ali has been a Guest Lecturer at Harvard and Yale University, George Washington University, Georgetown University, Spelman College, Albany Law School and Howard University School of Law. He is a former instructor at West Virginia University and Stanford University in Washington, and the former co-host of the “Spirit in Action” radio show which focused on social justice issues. Mustafa has appeared on MSNBC, CNN, VICE, Democracy NOW. He has also been featured in the Washington Post, GQ Magazine and cited in over 100 publications. Since resigning from the EPA in March of 2017, he has conducted over 150 interviews.

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