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Government & Politics

Two key staffers leave Horrigan administration

akron's municipal building
Akron City Council
Mayor Dan Horrigan's office is losing two cabinet members.

Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan's office is losing two cabinet members. Chief of Staff/Deputy Mayor of Administration Annie McFadden and Press Secretary/Senior Strategic Counsel Ellen Lander Nischt are both departing the mayor's office. Akron's Chief City Prosecutor Gert Wilms will replace McFadden as Chief of Staff, and press relations will be handled by a variety of staff.

McFadden joined the city in 2016 as Deputy Chief of Staff after serving as Horrigan's campaign director in 2015. In January of 2020, she was named Chief of Staff and and Deputy Mayor for Administration. In her role, she directed all functions of the mayor's office and cabinet, managed messaging and communication for the city and served as strategic council to the mayor. Additionally, McFadden oversaw several key initiatives and special projects for 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.

“Annie has been an indispensable part of the success of my administration,” Horrigan said in a press release. “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 Landers Nischt
City of Akron
Ellen Lander Nischt is leaving Mayor Dan Horrigan's office after being with the city since 2013.

Nischt joined the city in 2013 as an Assistant Director of Law, drafting legislation for council, representing the city in civil litigation and administrative proceedings, drafting development agreements and providing legal advice. In 2015, she became the first woman in the history of the city to serve as the mayor's Chief of Staff under former Mayor Jeff Fusco. She was appointed Press Secretary for Horrigan in 2016 and Senior Strategic Counsel in 2020.

“Ellen’s ability to strategize about complex problems and effectively develop and communicate solutions is unmatched,” Horrigan said. “I wish her and her family the best, and I am confident that she will excel at whatever she pursues in the future.”

During their tenure, McFadden and Nischt helped pass 10 amendments to the city's charter. McFadden coordinated and oversaw four nonpartisan city campaigns, including the 2017 passage of the quarter percent income tax increase. Nischt was the architect of the charter and ballot language for these amendments, leading to police transparency, increased diversity in city hiring and improved efficiency and accessibility in elections.

Both McFadden and Nischt played key roles in the city's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A press release from Horrigan's office stated the extensive demands of the past several years is playing a role in their departure from the city. McFadden and Nischt both say they are not leaving the city for other job opportunities and instead want to spend time with their families.

"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.

McFadden expressed similar sentiments: "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.”

Effective January 3, 2022, Wilms will be acting Chief of Staff. She graduated from Ohio State University with a double major in political science and history and received her Juris Doctorate and Master's in Public Administration from the University of Akron. She began her career in public service in law school, serving as an advocate with the Battered Women's Shelter of Summit County. Wilms then took a position with the Akron's Prosecutor's Office and served as a municipal prosecutor for almost 20 years. In 2012, she was named Chief City Prosecutor. Wilms additionally has served as LGBTQ+ Liaison to Horrigan.