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.

Wes 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.



YIDRmEkZ_400x400Michail Takach –  Vice President – Communications, Board of Directors

Since 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 is currently the chief digital officer for VCA Inc.

Michail joined the organization 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 a writer, researcher and historian, Michail has been a longtime leader and curator of the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project.  In 2016, he published LGBT Milwaukee, the first comprehensive history of local LGBTQ life spanning nine decades.

As the vice president of communications, Michail oversees year-round operational functions, including advertising, branding, e-mail marketing, website maintenance, public relations and community outreach.





BOARD - Jorna TaylorJorna Taylor – Vice President – Development, 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.






Vince Tripi – Director – Education & Outreach, Board of Directors

vincenttripi_milwaukeeprideVince started in Milwaukee and he’s staying in Milwaukee with his partner, kayak, and Schnauzer mix, Broccoli.

As a senior instructional designer for Aurora Health Care, it’s his job to break down complex software systems so that anyone can have a meaningful learning experience.

A double-alum of UW-Milwaukee, Vince holds a master’s degree in administrative leadership and a bachelor’s degree in middle and high school education. As an undergraduate he was active in diversity leadership.   He received the Distinguished Service Award from the UWM LGBT Resource Center in 2011.

Vince knows the power of volunteerism: he’s an Eagle Scout, serves as an HIV counselor at a free clinic, and trains adult leaders of non-profit youth programs. He’s presented at universities across the country (and at Google’s New York HQ) on queerness in the media and how LGBTQ people can cultivate career success.

Vince joined the Milwaukee Pride Board of Directors in 2017. His primary interests are local and pre-Stonewall queer history, as well as the incredible diversity of gender identities and sexual orientations across time and space.



Michael Heller – Board of Directors
Pride Photo
Michael is an active member of the LGBT community, seasoned legal professional, and a proud resident of the City of Milwaukee.

He is excited to have the opportunity to assist with managing, operating, and organizing one of Milwaukee’s most important events. 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.




Kate Sherry – Festival Producer

kateKate joined the Milwaukee Pride Board of Directors in 2009 and later served as marketing and communications director.  Last year, she volunteered in the PrideFest production office, but looks forward to returning to the complexities and challenges of a leadership role.

“On a serious note,” adds Sherry, “I do come from a theatre background.  I spent years performing from New York to Chicago and back, and have been fortunate enough to work here in Milwaukee with some amazing directors and actors. PrideFest, for me, has been it’s own version of working on a great theatrical performance.”

“I get to experience the celebration like everyone else does, but I also get to see just how it’s all made. I enjoy the production aspect of it all, and working with a team behind the scenes, in front of the scenes, whatever it takes to put on this amazing show. And if people would ever ask me what I did for the summer, I’d love to be able to gesture out towards the crowds, out towards the families strolling with children, the lights, the music, the laughter and smiles on the grounds and say THIS. This is what I did this summer.”

“I’m not going to lie, it is so much work. But the people who put in so much of their time to pull this off year after year are amazing. They are the ones making it a magical time in more ways than one, and they can never be thanked enough.”



luke-olson-picLuke Olson – Director, Festival Operations

Luke Olson has always had big dreams. The biggest one, being able to drive a golf cart around Henry Maier Festival Park, finally came true in 2012. He got the opportunity to serve as the Operations Director by harassing the right people at the right time.

Since that year’s festival, he has been the link between PrideFest and Milwaukee World Festival. The Operations Director handles logistics for the festival, including managing the layout of the grounds, arranging the fireworks display, and securing the permits for the festival. Luke has enjoyed developing relationships with Summerfest staff, leaders from the other ethnic festivals and city officials, along with all the vendors he coordinates with to make PrideFest happen.

“So many people don’t realize how much goes into putting a festival like PrideFest on. We’re working year round so the community can show up to the festival and have a great experience.”

Luke has a B.A. in Journalism and Media Communication from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is the Assistant Director of Registration Services for the UW-Milwaukee School of Continuing Education and also works security at This Is It.



markgMark Gerber – Director, Festival Entertainment

It takes a lot of work and effort to put on a festival this large.  But, with our great group of PrideFest volunteers, we continue to outdo ourselves year after year.  And over the years, we have become one big family.

I brought my daughter Samantha to PrideFest in 2000 and was able to ride a float in the parade with her. To this day, we still talk about that experience. She was intrigued with all the diverse people that she saw and met that day. Hopefully, that experience helped her along the way in accepting the diverse group of people I now call family and friends.

Based on my experience in concert production and promotion, I was approached in 2007 to join the PrideFest Production Team.  I ran the old Miller Mainstage prior to its demolition.  After a brief hiatus, I returned in April 2012 as Director of Entertainment.  Even joining the festival that late in the year, we pulled off PrideFest with the highest attendance ever-to-date at the time.

My daughter Amanda and partner Shawn joined my team in 2013.

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” C.S. Lewis




Tony Snell Rodriguez — Director, Festival Security

Tony is a longtime human rights activist, author, and community organizer.  

tony-233x300He relocated to Milwaukee from South Carolina, where he served as president of South Carolina Pride for several years and is a founding member of the Harriet Hancock Center Foundation.

Over the years, Tony has served as an LGBTQ community spokesperson while organizing initiatives and demonstrations, including an infamous trip to Bob Jones University; pride events in Columbia, Greenville, and Myrtle Beach; the historic inclusion of S.C. Pride in the Columbia St. Patrick’s Day Parade; and state senate passage of a hate crime bill protecting sexual orientation.

In 1998, Tony was interviewed by the New York Times in a groundbreaking, front-page story about LGBTQ political organizing in the South. Demanding transgender inclusion, he was instrumental in the crafting and passage of the City of Columbia Human Rights Ordinances—first in the state and notable in the deep South.

Tony has also served as a founding member of both the Equality Federation (a national group of LGBTQ organizations) and the F.B.I. Community Engagement Council.

Tony joined the PrideFest Milwaukee Production Team as director of security and serves as a member of the City of Milwaukee Equal Rights Commission.   Tony, a Spanish-American, is happily married to Dr. W. Zhang and proud to now call Milwaukee their home.