Minnesota State Fair names longtime deputy GM as new CEO

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The Minnesota State Fair has named a longtime member of the fair’s management team as the new chief executive officer after the current CEO announced his plan to retire.

Monday, the fair announced that Renee Alexander will take over for retiring CEO Jerry Hammer when he steps down this spring.

RELATED: Minnesota State Fair CEO to step down after 26 years

Alexander has spent more than 20 years with the Great Minnesota Get-Together, including 13 years as the fair’s deputy general manager.

“This is a large role to fill, and we’re confident that Renee is a qualified and proven leader,” State Fair Board President Joe Scapanski said. “The Great Minnesota Get-Together is world-famous for its tradition of excellence. We’re looking forward to Renee’s vision of maintaining that tradition and building on the State Fair’s amazing legacy.”

“My commitment to the Minnesota State Fair extends well beyond this merely being a job,” Alexander said in a statement. “I love this institution and all that it stands for – a showcase of the very best of our state, a place where amazing memories are created and where ‘The Great Minnesota Get-Together’ is more than a slogan; it drives at our mission. I believe my work in this industry and my unique experience will serve us well as I take on the tremendous responsibility of leading this incredible organization.”

Alexander initially worked in entertainment and marketing for the fair from 1989 through 1994. She then returned in 2005 and currently oversees all of the fair’s entertainment programs, including booking and producing Grandstand events. She’s won multiple awards for her work, and also leads the fair’s educational programming, marketing and communications, media relations, web and publications, archives and ticketing departments.

“Renee is perfect for the job,” Hammer said. “She has a deep understanding and appreciation for the State Fair’s powerful impact here in Minnesota and beyond. She knows what it takes to keep the shine on our state treasure.”

Hammer, who has spent 53 years with the Minnesota State Fair, including the past 26 as CEO — the longest such tenure in State Fair history — announced in November that he’ll retire this spring.

He’s credited with helping to grow the fair into a major economic engine for the state, attracting more than a million visitors each year and producing an estimated economic impact of $300 million. He also oversaw around $180 million in upgrades and expansions over the years, which the fair says was all done without any public funding.

In recent years, he navigated the State Fair’s cancellation in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the dissolution and subsequent reinstatement of the Minnesota State Fair Police Department.

While a specific date for his retirement hasn’t yet been announced, the fair says it expects Alexander will assume her new duties later this spring.