The Wayne County Athena Award program has a celebrated history of powerful keynote speakers.
2018 Keynote Speaker
Blair Milo – Secretary of Career Connections and Talent for the State of Indiana & Mayor of La Porte, Indiana
Blair Milo was first elected Mayor of La Porte, Indiana in 2011 and re-elected in 2015. Upon taking office, Mayor Milo focused her administration on building the most conducive climate for economic development growth, providing for sustainable infrastructure needs and fostering a community dedication toward positive lifestyle choices.
Since 2012, Mayor Milo has led a community team that has created a business environment where over $260M in new investment and over 1100 new jobs have been created. Major projects contributing to this are the 137 – acre expansion with new dual rail service in the Thomas Rose Industrial Park; the commercial redevelopment of a brownfield in the center of the city, NewPorte Landing; and the largest single jobs expansion project in La Porte’s history: the addition of a second plant at Alcoa Howmet.
The new Alcoa (now called Arconic) plant makes La Porte home to the most advanced aeronautical manufacturing facility in the world. During her tenure La Porte’s crime rate has decreased by 33 percent, investment in road maintenance has increased more than ten-fold, and a La Porte Ivy Tech training site has been established to connect workers with new, growing job opportunities. In early 2012 Mayor Milo formed a partnership with the City, La Porte County YMCA and IU Health La Porte Hospital to create “Fitness Fridays,” a community fitness program that includes a weekly 5k walk/run with the Mayor. Since its inception the program has added partners, and in 2014 Mayor Milo initiated “Step Up Saturdays” where she traveled to a city or town in all 92 counties across Indiana to initiate a similar free 5k walk/run program to help improve Indiana’s overall health. As a result, over 25 percent of participating communities intended to continue the concept and in early 2017 Mayor Milo was named “Elected Official of the Year” by the Indiana Parks and Recreation Association.
Appointed by former Indiana Governor Mike Pence, Mayor Milo serves on the State Workforce Innovation Council and chairs the Career Counseling Task Force. She has testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Republican Policy Committee on the challenges and opportunities before the American Worker. She is a member of Governing Magazine’s Women in Government Leadership Series made up of 25 elected women from across the country. Mayor Milo also serves on the Board of Directors for the National Association of Regional Councils; the Indiana Advisory Alliance for the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition; the Board of Directors for Accelerate Indiana’s Municipalities; and the Board of Governors for the Richard G. Lugar Excellence in Public Service Series.
Following the November 2016 election, she served on the Transition Teams of Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb and Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill.
Prior to moving home to run for Mayor, Milo served as a Surface Warfare Officer in the U.S. Navy. She first served as the Anti – Submarine Warfare Officer then as Electrical Officer in USS Mason (DDG 87) from January 2005 until May 2007, completing two Persian Gulf deployments. She then transferred to the Destroyer Squadron 50 staff based in Manama, Bahrain and served as the Assistant Operations Officer, daily scheduler for the Northern Arabian Gulf battle space, Public Affairs Officer and as Tactical Watch Officer for the Commander. After serving in Bahrain and Iraq, Milo transferred to the Chief of Naval Operations staff at the Pentagon where she worked on the Navy’s newest stealth destroyer ship class, DDG – 1000, in addition to serving as the Admiral’s Aide and Special Assistant to the Director of Surface Warfare.
In July 2010, Milo transitioned from active to reserve duty where she first served as a Surface Warfare subject matter expert at the Office of Naval Intelligence before transferring to the NATO Warfare Development Group in Great Lakes, IL. She holds the rank of Lieutenant Commander while serving in the Standby Reserve and was awarded the 2017 American Legion Military Person of the Year (Reserve Category) for the State of Indiana.
Blair Milo was born and raised in La Porte, Indiana and graduated from La Porte High School. She attended Purdue University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and a commission as an Ensign in the United States Navy in 2004. In 2010, she earned a Master’s Degree in Legislative Affairs from the George Washington University.
Past Keynote Speakers
2017: Karen Freeman-Wilson
On December 31, 2011, Karen Freeman-Wilson became the first woman to lead the steel city of Gary, Indiana and the first African-American female Mayor in Indiana.
Freeman-Wilson previously served as the CEO of The National Association of Drug Court Professionals and Executive Director of The National Drug Court Institute based in Alexandria, VA. With Freeman-Wilson at the helm, the number of drug courts in the U.S. doubled and NADCP became the premier organizational advocate for drug treatment in the judicial arena. Freeman-Wilson has consulted with the Office of White House Drug Control Policy, the Department of Justice and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the creation and implementation of drug policy. As the twice-elected Gary City Judge, she helped pioneer the drug court movement in Indiana.
Freeman-Wilson has also demonstrated public service and leadership in state government serving as Indiana Attorney General and Executive Director of the Indiana Civil Rights Commission. Freeman-Wilson serves on the National League of Cities’ Board Executive Committee, Co-Chair of the Presidential Task Force and the REAL (Race Equity and Leadership) Council. In November 2016, she was elected second Vice President (VP) of the organization’s Leadership and Board of Directors.
She previously chaired NLC’s Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee. Freeman-Wilson also chairs the Crime and Social Justice Committee for the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Mayors/Police Chiefs Working Group on Police Community Relations and is also a member of the USCM Advisory Board.
Along with her husband, Carmen Wilson, and their daughter Jordan, Freeman-Wilson resides in the historic Horace Mann neighborhood of Gary, Indiana. She was valedictorian of her graduating class at Roosevelt High School and went on to graduate from Harvard College (cum laude) and from Harvard Law School.
2016: Sue Ellspermann
Sue Ellspermann serves as the 50th Lieutenant Governor of Indiana.
As Lt. Governor, Sue manages six state agencies including the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, the Office of Defense Development, the Office of Community and Rural Affairs, the Office of Tourism Development and the Office of Small Business and Entrepreneurship. She also serves as President of the Indiana Senate and chairs the Indiana Counter Terrorism and Security Council.
Sue was raised in Ferdinand, Indiana. She graduated Purdue as an industrial engineer and established a career in engineering and management at Michelin and Frito-Lay.
While earning her master’s degree and doctorate in industrial engineering at the University of Louisville, she established Ellspermann and Associates and began a 20-year consulting practice. She later became the founding director of the University of Southern Indiana’s Center for Applied Research and Economic Development.
In 2010, Sue was elected to the Indiana House of Representatives. In November of 2012, she was elected to serve with Governor Mike Pence.
2015: Lin Dunn
A pioneer and leader throughout the game of women’s basketball and the fourth head coach in Indiana Fever history, Lin Dunn was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame on June 14, 2014 during what was her final season on the sidelines.
She announced her retirement from coaching after guiding the Fever to the Eastern Conference Finals, though remains with the club as a coaching consultant. She also has established her own consulting agency, “Coaching4Coaches,” which offers a variety of resources for NCAA Division I and WNBA head coaches.
Dunn is the winningest coach in franchise history, boasting a seven-year record of 135-103 with the 2012 WNBA championship as the finest accomplishment in a distinguished 44-year coaching career.
2014: Sherrie Bossung
Sherrie Bossung, R.N., M.B.A., oversees community outreach and employee engagement for Eli Lilly and Company — the 10th largest pharmaceutical company in the world. Since 2006, she has led the company’s award-winning global volunteer program—harnessing the volunteer spirit of 40,000 Lilly employees worldwide.