Photo courtesy of the AllianceSuzanne Kelley to retire in June.
After 14 years leading the Waukesha County Business Alliance, Suzanne Kelley will retire as President & CEO on June 30, 2024. The Alliance’s board of directors has named Amanda Payne, currently Senior Vice President of Public Policy, as her successor, effective July 1.
Kelley stated, “It has been an absolute privilege to serve as the President & CEO of the Waukesha County Business Alliance. I am immensely proud of what we have accomplished together during my time here, and I am grateful for the support of our members, partners and the community.”
Kelley joined the Alliance in September 2009 when it was known as the Waukesha County Chamber of Commerce. Within a year, she led the Chamber to merge with the Waukesha County Action Network to create the Alliance, which is focused on driving economic growth in Waukesha County and providing a strong voice for business. During Kelley’s tenure, the Alliance has grown to 1,200 members and has become one of the leading organizations in the state when it comes to workforce, talent and business education partnerships. The Alliance also worked hand-in-hand with Waukesha County and business and municipal leaders to launch the Waukesha County Center for Growth, the county’s economic development organization.
Kelley led the Alliance to increase its advocacy work and had an impact on several key issues such as Lake Michigan water for the City of Waukesha, completion of the West Waukesha bypass, funding to improve the safety of I-94 in Southeast Wisconsin and enhanced technical education funding. She was also influential in enacting the state’s manufacturing and agricultural tax credits, pushing for affordable workforce housing, and supporting innovative transportation solutions.
Kelley earned the 2021 Woman of Distinction award by the Women and Girls Fund of Waukesha County and was named to the 2013 Women of Influence class by the Milwaukee Business Journal. She served as a 2015 Campaign Co-Chair for United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County and served on the United Way Board of Directors. She also served on the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) Board of Directors and the Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce Executives (WCCE) Advisory Board.
Prior to joining the Alliance, Suzanne enjoyed a 23-year career in government relations for GE. As Regional Manager of Corporate Government Relations, she managed GE’s legislative and public affairs activities in a 12-state region and represented the company on a broad range of issues before state and local governments.
“Suzanne stepped into her role with a vision to build the Alliance into the business engine for the County,” said Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow. “I want to thank her for all she has done to truly help Waukesha County lead the way. As Amanda prepares to step into this new role, I am confident she will be the guiding force the Alliance can follow to keep us at the forefront of business growth and advocacy. I look forward to working with her in the years to come.”
Kelley’s successor, Amanda Payne, joined the Alliance in 2012 and has led the Alliance’s marketing, membership, sponsorship, manufacturing, talent and lobbying efforts. Payne has played a key role in transforming the Alliance’s advocacy work, getting local business leaders engaged in the public policy process and ensuring the voice of business is heard on critical issues. She also led the Alliance through the process of becoming a registered lobbying entity to further grow its platform as a voice for the business community. Payne currently leads the Manufacturing Alliance of Southeast Wisconsin and oversees the Alliance’s Economic Development Policy Committee, Infrastructure Policy Committee, and Policy Board.
“I am incredibly honored to serve as the next leader of the Waukesha County Business Alliance,” said Payne. “For the last decade, I have been proud to work across nearly every aspect of the Alliance. I believe wholeheartedly in our mission. I am deeply passionate about Waukesha County, a place my family has called home for six generations. Most of all, I am inspired by our members and committed to building upon the Alliance’s 105-year legacy of driving economic growth.”
Payne is a Wisconsin native and received her bachelor’s degree from Butler University. She was recognized as a 40 Under 40 award winner by the Milwaukee Business Journal and “People to Know in Manufacturing.” She and her husband live in Waukesha with their three children.