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The Cold Filtered Ramblings of Gene Mueller

Another take on Summerfest's Don Smiley and his pay

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Don Smiley's emails have legs.

The Summerfest director dropped me a missive a few weeks ago after a Journal/Sentinel story about his pay: $773 thousand in 2011, the last year for which such information is available.   It created a buzz in some circles and got dismissed in others.   Smiley didn't talk to the paper about his take-home, prompting me to suggest on-air that he "own" it--if that indeed is what he's knocking down, I said, claim it and tell the people why.

That's what he did in his e-mail.

Urban Milwaukee's Bruce Murphy dissects Smiley's response this week.   

I'm still not sure I get the hub-bub--Bo Black's salary was the stuff of great consternation when she preceded Smiley as Summerfest's director--and I agree with Murphy that Smiley's salary shouldn't be something that has to be ferreted out by a newspaper reporter.   Again, if that's what he's going to get, the Summerfest board should own the story, get out in front of it, and explain it.   Smiley did in his e-mail.   His bosses would've been wise to have made a pre-emptive strike.

I don't know the going rate for festival directors on the national market.   I do know Summerfest is something that works, although too many in this town like to rip it apart.   We all have a vision of what it should be, and its organizers are tasked with the impossible mission of trying to make everyone happy.

Summerfest came a long way in it's four and a half decades at the lakefront, and two things have been consistent: the smile that's been the Big Gig's logo for ions, and controversy.


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