Rising Star Series

Rising Star: Andy Wilke

Andy Wilke isn’t one to boast unless it’s to brag about the city of Mankato. Not because it’s his hometown or because Minnesota State University, Mankato is his alma mater. He just knows at his core Mankato is special. There was no other place he wanted to return to and start a family, so there’s no one better to advocate for the city and its citizens as the new Executive Vice President of Greater Mankato Growth than him. 

What steps did you take to get to your current position? 

My career has been sort of interesting in that I’ve had a variety of different work experiences. I spent the last decade working for Brookfield Properties managing regional shopping centers in Iowa and Georgia and came back as manager of River Hills Mall for five years. Before that, I spent some time at the Minnesota legislature working for the Minnesota House of Representatives. I’ve worked in the private sector, the public sector and now I work in nonprofit, so I can see our community through several sets of eyes. It’s been great to lead the advocacy efforts throughout Greater Mankato Growth, something I’ve done since I was brought on board in August of 2021, and will continue to lead as the executive vice president.  

Why did you choose this career path? 

During college, my family opened up Toppers Pizza here in Mankato in 2007 and my family ran that store until 2013. My college job was helping my family run that business, and that experience of starting and running a business really shaped my view of what I do now with helping businesses to be successful.  

Why do you like your work? 

The best part of my job is meeting with community members who are really trying to make special things happen here. I love being in this position at Greater Mankato Growth where I’m able to steer our resources towards helping those things happen. The other thing I love is being at the capital. I love interacting with elected officials because we have such a great story to tell. I’m just a huge fan of Mankato. I love bragging about Mankato whenever I get a chance to do so. 

What inspires you? 

As a father of two kids, I view the world through their eyes. What is the legacy I will leave or my generation will leave for them? Is it going to be something I’m proud of and that we as a society will be proud of? I want to make sure I’m leaving the world a better place for my kids and the next generation.   

What advice do you have for young professionals? 

Find balance. It’s always good to be growing and looking at the next step in your career but find balance as well. When I was young, I was probably too focused on what was the next step for me in my career, and at some point, I had to make a decision. Do I want a bigger title? More responsibility at the expense of family time? I made the decision no. I like picking my kids up from school. I love playing with them every night at the park. Those are the moments I’ll never get back.   

Reflecting on the beginning of your career, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then? 

Don’t be afraid to get out and meet new people and start developing relationships early. I think that was something I was a little apprehensive about doing early on in my career. Eventually, I learned that’s where so much can be accomplished. Don’t be afraid to call or send that email, even to the CEO of that company or a community leader. It’s good to establish those relationships early and over time.  

You’re at the mall and have $50 in your pocket. What do you spend it on? 

Oh, that’s easy. I’m going to get a schwarma at Massad’s then I’m going to go to Scheels and spend whatever I have left.  

Would You Rather: Mankato Edition 

We’re making Mankato’s biggest fan choose! 

Would you rather go to a Mankato MoonDogs game or a Mavericks Football game? 

You’re going to get me in trouble! I love going to MoonDogs games in the summertime with my family. There’s something romantic about a ballpark on a nice summer night under the lights. I love it!  

Would you rather go to a concert at the Mankato Civic Center Grand Hall or the Vetter Stone Amphitheater?  

Vetter Stone Amphitheater. I love an outdoor concert. I enjoy any kind of live music, especially outdoors under the stars with a nice cold beverage.  

Would you rather go for a hike along the Minnesota River valley or spend the afternoon at the River Hills Mall? 

It depends on what time of year. If it’s summertime, definitely the hike. If it’s wintertime around the holidays, I love being in a shopping mall because I’m a huge fan of Christmas. The holiday season is something that really energizes me.