Board of Directors

Wes Shaver – President, Board of DirectorsBOARD -Wes Shaver

Mr. Shaver hails from Cleveland, Ohio, but has called Milwaukee home since 2003. Wes holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Cardinal Stritch University in Theater Arts and Sport Management. Professionally, Shaver has served as the lead faculty member at Concordia University for their Hospitality & Event Management System and teaches both undergraduate and graduate students.

He is the co-owner of Black Sheep, a restaurant & bar in Milwaukee’s historic Fifth Ward and also serves as the Director of Marketing and Sales for Wild Planet Restaurant Group (Red Rock Saloon, McGillycuddy’s, The Brass Alley, Evolution, Red Lion Pub, Trocadero). Mr. Shaver also works with Milwaukee’s Cream City Foundation assisting with communication, engagement, and fundraising to further the Foundation’s impact on SE Wisconsin’s LGBT community. Mr. Shaver joined the Milwaukee Pride Board of Directors in 2013 as the Development Director. In this role, Wes assists with sponsorships, fundraising, community and business development as well as festival operations for increased profitability and sustainability.



Michail Takach –  Vice President, Board of Directors

img_9494-1Since graduating from the University of Wisconsin in 1999, Michail has been driving digital transformation in the financial services, health care, human resources and non-profit sectors.  Michail currently leads global digital operations at Cielo, a Milwaukee-based company operating in over 70 countries.

Michail joined PrideFest Milwaukee in 2010 as the group’s first Social Media Manager, and one year later, joined the Board of Directors.  In 2012, he led efforts to reinvent and relaunch the PrideFest Milwaukee website.  As the Communications Director, Michail oversees year-round communications efforts, including advertising, branding, e-mail marketing, website maintenance, SEO, public relations and community partnerships.






Denise Haussy – Secretary, Board of Directors

Denise Haussy is a Revenue Management professional at The Mark Travel Corporation, a vacation company servicing more than 1,100 destinations worldwide. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Cardinal Stritch University.

Denise’s desire to work with non-profit groups led her to originally serving on the PrideFest Board of Directors in Fund Development. She currently serves as Secretary for the Milwaukee Pride Board of Directors. In addition, Denise serves as the class leader liaison for Tamarack Waldorf School in Milwaukee, a non-profit private school. A native of Wisconsin, Denise currently resides in Milwaukee with her partner and children.



BOARD - Jorna TaylorJorna Taylor – Board of Directors

Prior to her work with High Ground, Jorna cut her teeth in politics and organizing back in the late 1990s while attending UW-Milwaukee.

After college, she served as a labor organizer before becoming involved in partisan politics, working on campaigns across the country from local and state races to presidential. In 2008,  she refocused on advocacy and nonpartisan civic engagement efforts to ensure every eligible voter could participate in our democracy.

In her free time, she enjoys the burgeoning indie music scene in Milwaukee and catering to the every whim of her horse, Jorge, and Jack Russell, Bones.


Karina Willes – Board of Directors


Karina has worked as a technology project manager at Foley & Lardner LLP for the past 15 years managing a wide array of technology initiatives.

She graduated from St. Norbert College in 1992 with a BBA in International Business and a minor in Spanish. She completed an MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1999. She is currently pursuing a PhD in communication at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which she hopes to complete by 2018.

Karina’s research is focused on LGBTQ health communication issues. Her current projects examine how patients select doctors using online resources, doctor-patient communication for lesbian couples seeking assisted conception services, and the problem of suicide in the LGBTQ community.

Karina began teaching in 2016 and continues this fall as a teaching assistant at UWM.

Karina’s passion for LGBTQ advocacy extends beyond research and academia. As a plaintiff in Wisconsin’s 2014 Wolf V. Walker marriage equality lawsuit, she represented and fought for parental rights for non-biological parents. This battle continued until September 2015, when the state amended the birth certificate for her daughter to include both her and her spouse’s names as parents.

Karina has an amazing spouse, Kami, and a beautiful toddler daughter, Olivia. They are avid baseball fans and live near Miller Park (home of the Milwaukee Brewers), in West Milwaukee. In her free time, Karina enjoys relaxing with her family, live music, and singing songs with her daughter.


Brian Burke – Board of Directors

brianburke_milwaukeeprideA graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Brian has over 18 years experience working in the hospitality and entertainment industries.

Brian has worked with renowned organizations including the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Pabst Theater Group. The past 10 years have found Brian working in a number of roles with The Northern Lights Theater at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. Those areas include ticketing, hospitality, logistics, marketing, budgeting and booking.

Brian is a member of the International Entertainment Buyers Association (IEBA) and enjoys traveling, concerts, reading and keeping up with the latest in the music business.



Vincent Withers – Board of Directors

VincentWithersA native of Milwaukee, Vincent Withers lived in Oklahoma and Arizona for nearly 20 years.

Since his return to Milwaukee in 2003, Vincent has completed his BA in Psychology and Master’s in Behavioral Health and Child and Family Social Work from UW-Milwaukee.  He is currently completing his licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist, focusing on LGBTQ individuals and families.

Vincent is a Family Support Specialist working for Aurora Health Care.  He is a member of the Trauma Informed Care Committee as well as several health care programs’ implementation teams.

Vincent was awarded the Aurora Health Care CEO Impact award for developing a program designed to support newly insured Medicaid recipients and Marketplace customers with healthcare management.

He is a member of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT).

Vincent joined the Milwaukee Pride Board of Directors in 2017. Committed to giving back, Vincent believes volunteerism is a way to unite people from diverse backgrounds and is an investment in the community.

Vincent enjoys cooking and dining out, traveling, outdoor activities, as well as volunteering for various community events and activities.




Michael Heller – Board of Directors

Michael is an active member of the LGBT community, seasoned legal professional, and a proud resident of the City of Milwaukee.

Pride PhotoHe is excited to have the opportunity to assist with managing, operating, and organizing one of Milwaukee’s most important events, PrideFest, which draws attendees from both Wisconsin and across the country.

As a longtime resident of Milwaukee, he is glad he can participate in the City’s transformation into a diverse hub of activity.

“Milwaukee is gaining more and more national attention as a true urban center of culture, community, economic activity, and diversity. Working for one of its largest and most important festivals is both an honor and a privilege for me. I hope to make this year’s Pridefest the best it can be.”

Michael attended Marquette University Law School and received his Juris Doctor degree. He currently operates his own firm, which focuses on business and transactional law, real estate, landlord-tenant law, banking and securities regulation, and civil litigation.



Scott Gunkel – Past President

Board - Scott GunkelScott is proud of his 36 years of involvement in many organizations: 16 years with Cream City Foundation, 10 years with the Sherman Park Rainbow Association, 10 years with the Lambda Rights Network, 6 years with the American Civil Liberties Union, 4 years with the Human Rights League, and years with various other groups and committees.

Of course, his most prideful moments come from Milwaukee Pride.  In 2017, Scott will oversee the Marketplace at PrideFest Milwaukee, while serving as an emeritus advisor to the Board of Directors.