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Akron, Ohio

Mayor Horrigan Announces New Chief of Staff, Departure of Two Cabinet Members

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City of Akron Press Release
From the desk of Ellen Lander Nischt
Published: 11-30-2021

Akron, Ohio, November 30, 2021  Today, Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan has announced that Annie McFadden, Chief of Staff/Deputy Mayor for Administration, and Ellen Lander Nischt, Press Secretary/Senior Strategic Counsel are leaving the City at the end of the year. Gert Wilms, an attorney with 20 years of public sector experience, currently serving as Akron’s Chief City Prosecutor, will replace McFadden as Chief of Staff.

Annie McFadden joined the City in 2016 as Deputy Chief of Staff, after serving as campaign director for Mayor Horrigan in 2015. Prior to that she was a communications and marketing professional with extensive experience working with various Akron and Summit County institutions, including Summit County Children Services, Summit County ADM Board, the Akron Summit County Public Library and a variety of non-profit organizations.  In January 2020, McFadden was named Chief of Staff and Deputy Mayor for Administration. Throughout her tenure in the Mayor’s Office, she has directed all functions of the Mayor's Office and Cabinet, managed messaging and communications for the City, served as strategic council to the Mayor and has overseen key initiatives and special projects out of the Mayor’s Office including: the Downtown Vision and Redevelopment Plan, the Akron Financial Empowerment Center, Age-Friendly Akron, the 2020 Census, and the City of Akron’s American Rescue Plan Act funding allocation strategy.

McFadden is a graduate of the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, a Greater Akron Chamber 30 for the Future Awardee, a member of Leadership Akron Class 37, a member of the Strategic Planning Committee at the United Way Summit Medina and a Board member at Habitat for Humanity of Summit County.

“Annie has been an indispensable part of the success of my administration,” Mayor Horrigan said. “Over the past 6 years, we have implemented meaningful changes and reset the tone of City engagement with the community.  Annie is one of the hardest working and most level-headed professionals I have had the pleasure of working alongside. I am thankful for her dedicated service to the community and I wish her the very best as she seeks a well-deserved change of pace.” 

Ellen Lander Nischt joined the City in 2013 as an Assistant Director of Law, after graduating first in her class from the University of Akron School of Law.  In the Law Department, Ellen drafted legislation for City Council, represented the City in civil litigation and administrative proceedings, drafted development agreements, and provided legal advice on issues ranging from ethics and municipal tax issues to public records and Constitutional law. In 2015, she served as Chief of Staff for then-Mayor Jeff Fusco—the first woman in the City’s history to do so. In 2016, she was appointed Press Secretary for Mayor Horrigan, and then in 2020 she assumed the additional title of Senior Strategic Counsel, where she brought together her experience and roles in law, policy and public relations. Nischt served as spokesperson for the City and liaison with City Council leadership, and coordinated and communicated the City’s legislative, strategic, and operational goals and initiatives, both internally and externally.  Nischt staffed both the 2020 Charter Review Commission and the inaugural Akron Civil Rights Commission.

“Ellen’s ability to strategize about complex problems and effectively develop and communicate solutions is unmatched,” Mayor Horrigan said. “Her greater sense for the public good has driven the amazing work she has done here at the City, and her unique intellect and talents will be sorely missed. I wish her and her family the best, and I am confident that she will excel at whatever she pursues in the future.”

Over the years, Deputy Mayor McFadden and Secretary Nischt were instrumental in the passage of 10 pivotal amendments to the City’s Charter.  McFadden coordinated and oversaw 4 non-partisan City campaigns during her tenure, including the 2017 passage of the quarter percent income tax increase, directly infusing much-needed funds to Akron’s police, fire and road budgets. Nischt served as the key architect of Charter and ballot language for these issues—which resulted in changes related to police transparency, increasing diversity in City hiring and procurement, and improved efficiency and accessibility in elections.  Both have been influential in changes to City policies, including the addition of paid parental leave for City workers, and the creation of breastfeeding-friendly environments in City buildings. 

In addition, both women were part of the core team that managed the City’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The extensive demands of the last several years have led both these cabinet members, also mothers to young children, to seek their next opportunities.  

“Since my first day with the City as a young lawyer, I have grown not only as a professional, but as a person.  Over the last three years, I have become a parent to two beautiful children, and it is with gratitude that I am pursuing deeper investment in that area of my life,” Nischt said of her departure.  “I am proud of the impact I have been able to make to help pave the way for others like me—a first generation college graduate, Akron transplant, and young working mother—to better engage with City government and step into leadership roles. I want to thank Mayor Horrigan for trusting me to be his voice and for the opportunity to serve the community I love in such a meaningful way.  Being the youngest female cabinet member in Akron’s history will be an honor I will carry with me throughout my career.”

McFadden adds, “It’s been such an honor to serve Mayor Horrigan in this capacity. This work can be arduous, and is exceedingly difficult, but nonetheless truly rewarding. I’ll never regret jumping into this opportunity with both feet. After so much meaningful work done at the City, I’m ready to refocus some time and energy to my young family, myself and the next chapter of my career, wherever that may be.”

Joining the administration as incoming Chief of Staff is Gert Wilms, effective January 3, 2022.  Gert Wilms graduated from the Ohio State University with a double major in history and political science.  She received her Juris Doctorate and Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Akron, and was admitted to the Ohio bar in 2001.

While in law school, Wilms began her career in public service as an advocate with the Battered Women’s Shelter of Summit County.  As an advocate she helped survivors of domestic violence navigate through the local criminal and domestic relations courts.  The following year, Wilms  took a position with the Akron Prosecutor’s Office, and for nearly two decades she has continued to serve the Akron community as a municipal prosecutor.  In 2012, Wilms was appointed to Chief City Prosecutor.  During the course of her career, Prosecutor Wilms has prosecuted more than 10,000 cases and served as the LGBTQ+ Liaison to Mayor Horrigan.

Wilms currently serves on numerous community councils, coalitions, task forces and boards including the Akron Pride Festival, the Summit County Domestic Violence Coalition and the Summit County Criminal Justice Advisory Board.

“I am grateful to Gert for bringing her extensive experience, proven integrity, and deep community connections to this new role within the administration,”  Mayor Horrigan said. “As I look to the next two years and beyond, I see an Akron that is recovering from the social and economic devastation of the last few years, thanks in large part to the unprecedented investments being made in infrastructure and equitable recovery. Gert’s knowledge and familiarity with the operations of all levels of government will be indispensable as we navigate this next chapter. With a dedicated cabinet and 1800 City employees who come to work every day to make a difference, I am confident that our City government will rise to the challenges of the pandemic-era with the grit and resilience that has come to define Akron.”

On an interim basis, press relations will be managed by a variety of staff. All press inquiries and interview requests should be conducted through the Press Office at [email protected] or (330) 375-2754.  Job postings will be made in the coming days.

For further information, contact:
Ellen Lander Nischt
Press Secretary & Senior Strategic Counsel
Phone: 330-375-2754
E-mail: [email protected]

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