Leadership Succession at the Forum

By Rob Henken

Dear Forum Members and Supporters:

I’m writing to let you know about a leadership change in our organization. We have been planning this change for the past two years, and it will enable us to continue to fulfill our mission and enhance our reputation as one of the country’s premier nonpartisan policy think tanks.

Effective July 16, I will be stepping down as Forum President after more than 16 years at the organization’s helm. Per the approval of our Executive Committee, our Vice President and Research Director, Jason Stein, will become the Forum’s new President. Jason was hired as the Forum’s Research Director in 2018; Vice President was added to his title last year in anticipation of this move. He has excelled at his job and is eminently qualified and ready for his new leadership role.

Please rest assured that while I will be ceding oversight of day-to-day operations to Jason and our Director of Business and Community Operations, Elizabeth Cizinsky, I will maintain a very active role in the Forum.

My new title will be Immediate Past President, and I will devote the bulk of my roughly 20 to 25 hours per week to the parts of my job I love most – research, writing, editing, and presenting. I will continue to lead our local government service sharing portfolio and play a prominent role in our fiscal research and analysis. I also will continue to manage and actively participate in our other major Milwaukee-area projects, including our recently launched work on public safety in Milwaukee and new projects I will help develop in the future.

Finally, I’ll be around to offer guidance and advice to Jason and the rest of the staff. In fact, I will remain very much involved in financial stewardship and other elements of our operations as Jason transitions into his new role during the remainder of 2024.

This transition plan makes sense both for me and the Forum. At age 60, I’m looking forward to focusing on policy-related work in my several remaining years with the organization, while allowing others with fresh ideas to accelerate our strategic direction and manage our operations. I’m grateful to our current and immediate past Board Chairs (Grady Crosby and Leigh Riley) and our Executive Committee for supporting the plan.

This changing of the guard in mid-year – as opposed to our original planned date of January 1, 2025 – is precipitated by a new opportunity that materialized for me. Also effective July 16, I will be taking on a new role as part-time Executive Director of the Milwaukee-based Herzfeld Foundation.

The foundation was run for several years by Bill Haberman, a former Chairman of the Public Policy Forum’s Board who passed away in 2019. I have been asked by Herzfeld Board members (including Bill’s two children, Fred and Sarah) to help them establish strategic priorities and assist in the day-to-day management of the foundation. The boards of both organizations agree that my involvement in both does not pose a conflict and is in their respective interests. This is a great opportunity for me to contribute to our community in a different manner, and I look forward to helping enhance the foundation’s tremendous contributions to Milwaukee’s quality of life.

Again, this is not a goodbye, but simply a heads up that a couple of the names and faces with whom you are most familiar at the Forum soon will be taking on different roles. You’ll be hearing more from Jason in the weeks ahead on his plans as President, and you will certainly be seeing and hearing a lot from me as I continue my active role with the Forum.