Season 2, Ep. 3: How You Can Get Closer to “Yes” on State Budget Considerations
Bill is a Partner with Michael Best Strategies. His combined decades of experience in the Wisconsin Governor’s office, as cabinet secretary, and as a successful lobbyist enable him to be an effective advisor and advocate for clients.
Before joining Strategies, Bill served as Managing Partner of Madison-based Capitol Consultants, Inc., a government relations and public affairs firm, for over 23 years. He worked with both public and private sector businesses, as well as nonprofits, to build strategic relationships, manage their public images, and implement grassroots advocacy programs.
Bill previously served as Chief of Staff to former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, and then as Gov. Thompson’s campaign manager during his successful third-term gubernatorial campaign in 1994. Gov. Thompson’s landslide 67% victory was the second-highest margin in state history and the largest margin since 1922. Following the election, Gov. Thompson appointed Bill to serve as Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Commerce. Over the next four years, Bill oversaw economic development programs throughout the state. Bill remains the youngest person ever to hold the position of gubernatorial chief of staff and cabinet secretary.
LSS Refugee Client, Arif Faizi, Featured in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Hundreds of Afghan refugees have come to the United States and have been given support by Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan (LSS) over the past couple of years. Each individual and family has a unique story full of challenges, successes, dreams, and realities. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently shared the heartwarming story of Arif Faizi and how LSS went the extra mile to give him a new life in Wisconsin.
Arif Faizi was paralyzed in a car crash in Afghanistan several years ago, making it difficult for him to get around without help from family and friends. Upon arriving in Wisconsin through the LSS Refugee Resettlement program, Faizi’s struggles were shared among the organization. How could LSS help get Faizi and his family the support they needed to succeed in their new home?
One day, LSS President and CEO Héctor Colón spoke with Kyle Weatherly as the two spent time together on the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents. Weatherly wanted to donate to LSS to help with Afghan refugee resettlement. However, he didn’t want to give a general donation; he wanted to help one family.
Colón then connected with Mary Flynn, program manager for LSS Refugee Resettlement. She thought of Fiazi, who needed a specialized wheelchair to get around and improve his health and way of life. The rest, as they say, is history. You can read the story by clicking the link below!
Season 2, Ep. 2: Maximize ROI by Harnessing Your Organizational Superpower
Melanie R. Varin
Melanie is an author and insightful business leader and change-agent combining strategy, Lean Six Sigma, sales, marketing and international leadership experience to help global teams grow via positive and sustainable change.
Melanie’s book – Ignite Topline Growth: How RevOps and Go-To-Market Alignment Spark Success – was written based on her passion for sales and marketing alignment. She’s experienced the superpower that comes with a great alignment of revenue-generating teams and wants to share that wisdom with others.
Melanie has 25+ years of experience in executive leadership, strategic planning, global marketing, national sales management, channel development, and operations. She has led three significant business turnarounds in Europe and the USA in Fortune 500 companies.
In her current role as Owner and Chief Operating Officer, TopLine Results Corporation, she applies her leadership and process skills to optimize current business operations as well as helping clients do the same. Her passions are developing high-performing teams, sales and marketing alignment, and business productivity. TopLine Results uses technology to bring together the right tools to help clients build positive and valuable relationships. These tools include customer relationship management (CRM) databases and integrated digital marketing platforms. Using the insights gained from these systems, clients can become better versions of themselves and offer improved services to their customers.
Melanie has a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University and a Master of International Business Studies from the University of South Carolina.
She has been married for almost 35 years to her life and business partner, Fred Varin, and has three grown children: Patrick (married to Rose), Clark, and Stephanie. When she is not working or writing, she loves to travel, enjoy long walks, read, and eat (and cook) fine food, preferably with family and friends.
Third Year in a Row! LSS Named Best and Brightest Company to Work For
For Immediate Release
Lutheran Social Services Named Winner of Best and Brightest Companies to Work For® in Milwaukee for Third Year in a Row
WEST ALLIS, Wis. (April 19, 2023) – For the third consecutive year, Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan (LSS) has been officially recognized as one of the “Best and Brightest Companies to Work For®” by the National Association for Business Resources (NABR). LSS is one of only 15 Wisconsin companies to earn the 2023 award, which goes to organizations that provide “exceptional human resource practices and an impressive commitment to their employees,” according to the NABR.
The Best and Brightest Companies to Work For® identifies LSS as a Milwaukee-area organization that displays “a commitment to excellence and employee enrichment,” areas the NABR identifies and honors as part of the program. Organizations are assessed on several categories, including diversity, work-life balance, communication and many more. Through determination, exceptional leadership, and daily ingenuity, the Best and Brightest like LSS are seen as ideal organizations that “epitomize Better Business. Richer Lives. Strong Communities.”
“I am so appreciative of everything our LSS colleagues do each and every day throughout our two-state reach to serve people who have incredible odds stacked against them,” said LSS President and CEO Héctor Colón. “Because of them, we are able to do this great work now and in the future. They care so much about one another and the nearly 30,000 people we help each year. The leadership team and our board are focused on ensuring LSS is a Workplace of Choice today, tomorrow and for many years to come.”
In 2022, LSS commemorated its 140th year of Servant-Leadership. Across three centuries since its inception in 1882, LSS has empowered people to live their best lives offering a path to recovery, safe and affordable homes, forever families, and independence.
Nominations for the “Best and Brightest Companies to Work For” are accepted across the United States and broken down by various regions. Employees then complete a survey to calculate an organization’s score to compare with its peers in a particular geographic location. Historically about 10% of all nominations received make the winners list.
ABOUT LUTHERAN SOCIAL SERVICES
LSS is called to serve with compassion and courage. Every year, tens of thousands of people in Wisconsin and Upper Michigan come to LSS with incredible odds stacked against them. With 140 years of proven results as a social service provider, more than 90% of the people served say LSS improves the quality of their lives. For more information, visit LSSwis.org.
Tim Muma, PR Specialist
LSS Hires Mara Dučkens, Strategic Thought Leader Philanthropic Advocate, as Chief Advancement Officer
Milwaukee, WI – Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan (LSS) is pleased to welcome Mara Dučkens as the organization’s first Chief Advancement Officer (CAO) beginning March 23. Dučkens’ proven track record of leading successful multi-million-dollar campaigns within philanthropic circles established her as a recognized leader, mentor, and innovator in the industry.
“LSS has been an organization that has drawn my interest because of its compassionate approach to positively impacting children, adults, and families in need,” Dučkens said. “In fact, it’s the multifaceted programming…that most appeals to me. As the chief fundraising strategist for the organization, helping donors understand the power of the programs within LSS – and their combined impact – will be my top priority.”
Mara’s experience in fundraising has shaped her into a strategic relationship-builder and advocate perfectly suited for the LSS leadership team. It is another step forward as LSS continues its strategic plan around new growth and innovation.
Héctor Colón, LSS President and CEO, and key driver of a multi-year, $30 million turnaround for the organization, explains, “I am excited about working with Mara and LSS leadership to enact a robust philanthropic plan that will yield strong donor partnerships around helping people live their best lives and thrive. Her demonstrated strategic approach to fundraising will certainly grow our capacity to better serve the nearly 30,000 individuals and families that seek support from LSS each year.”
José Olivieri, LSS Operating Board Chair, and Pat Wesner, LSS Foundation Board Chair, agree with Colón, “Mara brings the passion and empathy for others we value and admire in all our colleagues. We are confident in her ability to increase giving for LSS and grow the endowment to support the organization’s important mission work in perpetuity. We are grateful that Mara has chosen to continue her esteemed career with LSS and to support our vision of healthy communities filled with people using their God-given gifts to serve.”
Héctor Colón Honored to Accept Titan 100 CEO Award
Milwaukee (January 11, 2023) – Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan (LSS) is pleased to announce Héctor Colón, President and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan (LSS), as a 2023 Wisconsin Titan 100. Titan CEO and headline sponsor Wipfli LLP recognizes Wisconsin’s Top 100 CEOs & C-level executives as the area’s most accomplished business leaders in their industry using criteria demonstrating exceptional leadership, vision, and passion. Colón will be honored at the annual Titan 100 awards celebration on January 12th, 2023, at Fiserv Forum and published in a limited-edition Titan 100 book and profiled exclusively online. Honorees also will have the opportunity to interact and connect multiple times throughout the year.
As President and CEO, Héctor Colón has utilized his visionary, Servant-Leadership approach to position LSS for greatness by adapting new models and business strategies to increase impact and viability for
staff, clients and the organization. Before the start of Colón’s tenure in 2017, the organization had not met its budget for four consecutive years. During Colón’s first three years, LSS grew from over $4 million in losses to $8 million in gains resulting in a $12.4 million financial turnaround. Previously, as Executive Director of the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services, Colón led several countywide initiatives, including efforts to reform the juvenile justice system, end chronic homelessness, transform mental health care, and end a 30-year waitlist for disabilities services.
“The Titan 100 are shaping the future of the Wisconsin business community by building a distinguished reputation that is unrivaled and preeminent in their field. The group recognizes the Titan 100 for their successes and contributions. The 2023 Wisconsin Titan 100 and their companies employ more than 100,000 individuals and generate $36 billion in annual revenues. “We know that they [WI Honorees] will have a profound impact that makes an extraordinary difference for their customers and clients across the nation,” says Jaime Zawmon, President of Titan CEO.
“What a remarkable honor to be named a Titan 100. Although the recognition falls on one person, I only succeed in serving others thanks to the wonderful people at LSS, who demonstrate compassion and courage through their God-given gifts,” Colón said. “I feel such heartfelt gratitude and respect to be chosen for this distinction by an esteemed organization. It is my pleasure to use this as further motivation to lead LSS to empower the lives of everyone we touch throughout Wisconsin.”
Ep. 10: Champion Leaders Address Justice, Innovation, and Mentorship
High-impact leaders get real In the Ring with Héctor Colón
Marian Baldini is the CEO and President of KenCrest, a human services and early learning provider throughout Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Delaware; that serves over 12,500 people annually. She is an unwavering advocate for the equality and inclusion of people with disabilities, as well as access to early education for all. Marian has over 40 years of leadership in executive planning, administration, academia, and operational oversight; and began her career as a Direct Support Professional in the 1970s, at the same Agency where she now serves as CEO. Throughout her journey she has never lost sight of her “WHY,” and has inspired a shared vision amongst many in the IDD industry for what true inclusion looks like for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Marian has testified at legislative hearings on the closures of institutions; rallied for the certification of direct care workers; and published numerous op-eds on innovative service models to offset the nation-wide DSP crisis.
Kelli Dobner joined Samaritas’ leadership staff in 2017 as Chief Advancement Officer. Her accomplishments include the creation and chairmanship of the IDEA committee (inclusion, diversity, equality, action) including crafting the tier 1 policy, establishing annual goals in this body of work and spearheading organization-wide inclusive culture training, and board development and diversification.
In collaboration with community, corporate and congregational partners, Dobner helped direct a $100M statewide capital campaign, and launched new Substance Use Disorder services across Southeast and Mid Michigan. More recently, she co-founded the Afghan Refugee Network to support the influx of new arrivals. She also has doubled fundraising, and expanded development programming by adding foundation relations, corporate and community engagement, and major events programs to Samaritas. Bringing prior experience as Chief Development Officer of the Judson Center, where she was most proud of creating “a culture of ambassadorship,” Ms. Dobner has built a career on the principles of communication, community-building and concern for the greater good. She also held development positions in the Southfield, Michigan offices of the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association.
Kristyn is Chief Executive Officer of Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area (LSSNCA), which was the 2022 recipient of Lutheran Services in America’s Micah award for its work advancing equity and justice. Prior to joining LSSNCA, Kristyn served as the founding CEO of West Michigan Partnership for Children, a nonprofit piloting an innovative performance-based child welfare model. Here, she was named the Michigan Federation of Children and Families Advocate of the Year. Kristyn also served as the associate director of children’s services at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) overseeing national family reunification and foster care programs for unaccompanied children and as chair of the Vulnerable Minors Working Group of Refugee Council USA. Kristyn has also testified before Congress on protection needs for unaccompanied children, and represented USCCB as a subject matter expert on unaccompanied children at the UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) Annual Consultation meetings in Geneva.
Ep. 9: Knocking Out the Real Social Issues in Wisconsin with Governor Evers
Episode 9 of In the Ring with Héctor Colón with guest Governor Tony Evers airs Wednesday October 19, at 12 noon.
High-impact leaders get real In the Ring with Héctor Colón
Podcast guests talk about their challenges with systemic barriers that perpetuate stigma, devalue social programs, and ultimately prevent community-based organizations and the people we serve from thriving.
More on Tony Evers
On November 6, 2018, the people of Wisconsin voted Tony Evers (Ē-vers) the 46th governor of Wisconsin. Prior to his election, he served as the Wisconsin State Superintendent of Public Instruction winning statewide elections in 2009, 2013, and 2017. With over three decades of public education experience, Governor Evers has dedicated his life to fighting for Wisconsin’s kids and serving the people of Wisconsin.
As a life-long educator, the governor believes in bringing people together to solve the problems facing our state and putting the people of Wisconsin first.
He began his career in 1976 and has served Wisconsin students, parents, and citizens all over Wisconsin in Tomah, Oakfield, Verona, and Oshkosh.
Born and raised in Plymouth, Wisconsin, Governor Evers graduated from Plymouth High School and earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree in educational administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Kathy, an educator. They are parents of three adult children, all public school graduates, and have nine grandchildren.
Episode 8: Mike Victorson & Chris Kenyon – Not All Employees Are Treated Equal
Chris Kenyon is a partner and the managing director of senior living & social services practice atM3 Insurance. She serves as a subject matter expert, strategist, and thought leader for M3’s senior living and social services practice and is responsible for sharing information on trends and issues that specifically impact this industry.
Kenyon was instrumental in developing M3’s workers’ compensation Risk Analysis Report, a tool that helps businesses assess and benchmark their safety performance. She also conducts workshops for clients on topics such as safety and return-to-work programs.
Mike Victorson is the chief executive officer (CEO) of M3 Insurance, responsible for the strategic direction and vision of the agency, identifying opportunities for growth and innovation, cultivating organizational culture, and serving the community. Victorson serves on the M3Insurance Board of Directors and is a member of M3’s Executive Operating Committee.
Episode 7: Jose Olivieri – Living the Duties of Care, Loyalty and Obedience Over Self
José A. Olivieri is LSS’ current President of our Operating Board of Directors. He is a partner with Michael Best & Friedrich LLP Milwaukee office. He is Chair of the Labor and Employment Relations Practice Group and Co-Chair of the Government and Public Policy Group.
Mr. Olivieri also counsels in other aspects of employment law such as matters of federal and state discrimination law; NLRB and WERC law; the Fair Labor Standards Act; employee termination and discipline; unemployment compensation; and labor contract administration. He has frequently provided training to managers, supervisors and employees regarding employment law issues.
Additionally, Mr. Olivieri leads Michael Best’s Higher Education Special Practice Group, where he counsels colleges and universities on the broad spectrum of issues including governance matters, privacy issues, employment issues, student discipline issues, immigration law; labor contract administration; and other general matters.
He has taught the Advanced Employment Law Seminar at Marquette University Law School and is a frequent speaker on an array of employment and immigration-related topics.