Sanford started her career as a secretary in the exhibitions department in 1994 and quickly grew in her career to become an integral leader of the AEM exhibitions and operations team. She oversaw operations for AEM’s many trade shows, including CONEXPO-CON/AGG, The Utility Expo, AG Connect and World of Asphalt. She travelled the globe to support international exhibitions in China, India and Russia. Through her leadership, AEM has been able to advance its mission to create successful and effective opportunities to connect equipment manufacturers with agriculture and construction equipment end users.
AEM president Dennis Slater says: “For more than 20 years, Michelle was a bright asset to the AEM team, and her infectious laugh and smile are profoundly missed. A large part of AEM's success in producing some of the largest trade shows in the world are due to Michelle’s tremendous management skills and leadership. We all have a heavy heart as we move forward without Michelle. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family during this difficult time.”
Sanford was a long-time member of International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE), earning her Certified Exhibition Manager (CEM) designation. She shared her love for exhibitions on numerous councils and committees within IAEE, including the education committee, the CEM oversight committee that wrote the curriculum on the contract management segment, and she also served as proxy for several other AEM staff looking to also receive the CEM designation. She served on the board of the Major American Trade Show Organization and led that group in its strategic planning. She was a member of the Advisory Group for the cities of Las Vegas and Orlando. She launched trade shows on behalf of AEM in China and Russia, and she supported many other domestic and international events.
Sanford enjoyed time with family and giving back to her community. She volunteered at many organisations but had the strongest connection with the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Eastern Wisconsin. She served on their board and served as a direct volunteer.
The AEM staff will honour Sanford when they are back together in the office in the autumn. Sanford's obituary and information about her virtual and in-person funeral service can be found here.