JANESVILLE

Not only is Angela Pakes a technology engineer, she’s also a geologist, a geophysicist and a university researcher.

And she’s a Janesville native. And a Milton High School graduate.

And now she's the new CEO and president of Forward Janesville, the city's chamber of commerce. The group announced the hiring of Pakes this week after a lengthy search.

Oakleigh Ryan, chairperson of Forward Janesville’s board of directors, said Pakes —a Madison-area resident and UW-Madison engineering research director—will return to work in her hometown on Feb. 14 as the new leader of Janesville’s chamber of commerce and industry lobbying group.

Pakes’ official hire comes after an on-again-off-again search for a new chamber director that has spanned nearly two years, during which a global pandemic made the search for a leader challenging.

The organization was also dealt a setback in June when Michael Osborne was killed in a vehicle crash in Illinois within a couple days of being named as Forward Janesville’s new CEO.

Pakes emerged as the frontrunner for the chamber’s new leader this fall. The chamber has been operating under interim leadership since then after former Forward Janesville President and CEO John Beckord retired.

Pakes comes to Janesville’s chamber following 25 years of work in public and private-sector engineering, most recently at UW-Madison, where s she’s worked for the last 16 years.

Most recently, Pakes has served as Assistant Director of New Technologies Directions for the university’s College of Engineering’s Grainger Institute, where she sought grant funding for multimillion-dollar research projects.

Pakes, a UW-Madison and UW-Michigan graduate, also has a background in manufacturing and technology engineering, including stints earlier in her career working in Detroit for Ford Motor Co., and operating her own private engineering consulting firm in Michigan.

Ryan characterized Pakes as being “incredibly accomplished,” saying Pakes’s background and experiences span sectors of small business, large corporate manufacturing and the academia.

But Ryan said Forward Janesville’s leadership recruitment team keyed in on certain characteristics Pakes brings to the table, including a disarming sense of humility and sincerity as well as a researcher’s natural curiosity.

“We noticed it from the moment that we met her on a Zoom interview," Ryan said. "Instantly, you get a sense she cares about the person she’s speaking with. There's an authenticity to Angela, that becomes very apparent."

Ryan added, “She's a listener, she asked questions, and you can tell she's doing that because she genuinely wants to learn. You can see that as she learns from other people, that she's going to use that information to help solve a problem or move a project forward.”

Pakes grew up in Janesville at a time when the General Motors assembly plant here was still in operation and the local automotive industry employed thousands workers.

Family members of Pakes still live in the Janesville area. During visits to Janesville over the past decade, Pakes told the Gazette she has observed the city progressively working to reinvent and revitalize itself.

She called it an “exciting” time in history to return to Janesville.

“There’s so much great momentum that’s been going on in Janesville,” Pakes said. “It’s really exciting to see that as somebody who grew up in Rock County.”

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