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Board Candidate Statements

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There are seven candidates statements available to read below. Make sure to vote by August 21st at 6:00pm; paper ballots are available in each store. To vote online, please contact Customer Service at 251-6776 or 284-7800; or go here for more information.

In the candidate application, we asked candidates to collect 20 Owner signatures supporting their candidacy, if they had attended a Board meeting and if they had served on a Willy Street Co-op committee. “Yes” responses (if any) are at the beginning of each statement.


David WilliamsDavid Williams
“I am a long-time activist for economic justice, peace, and the environment, much-concerned now with food sovereignty, mutual aid networks, and community self-sufficiency.”

1. What strengths do you bring to the three Board initiatives of 1.) developing green initiatives, 2.) increasing financial accessibility, and 3.) developing our local food system? How will you utilize these strengths on the Co-op’s Board of Directors?
Please provide specific examples.

I am a retired librarian and 45-year veteran activist for labor, peace, the environment, and new economy movements. I have a passion for issues of food security, mutual aid networks, and community self-sufficiency.

I have supported worker justice issues for decades through union activism and labor solidarity, most recently organizing local IndustrialWorkers of the World union members to support the Palermo Pizza factory workers’ strike. I organize educational film screenings and community forums through the Solidarity Potluck, the Madison Infoshop, and the Peregrine Forum. In the past decade I have supported green initiatives in local government and the community through the Green Action Network (2006-2007), Progressive Dane, and the Green Party. I am a long-time community gardener.

One idea I have for developing our local food system is to set up seed libraries. These would be similar to the Little Free Libraries that we love, where people could drop off and share seeds at the end of a season for others to use, “Little Seed Library.”

2. Why do you want to serve on the Willy Street Co-op Board of Directors?

As Peter Kropotkin said, “Well-being for all is not a dream. It is possible, realizable, owing to all that our ancestors have done to increase our powers of production.” I wish to assist in the crucial work of the Willy Street Coop to build on its model of community involvement and cooperation. This is one of many models that we need to help us transition to a new, more sustainable, democratic, and workable economy of the future.

I am also concerned about adequate living wages and benefits for Co-op workers and the right of Co-op workers to collectively bargain. I wish to explore the reinstatement of the volunteer discount and to improve the discounts for low-income customers with demonstrated needs. I would make vegetable seeds more freely available through seed libraries in Madison and South Central Wisconsin. I would promote public transparency about the Co-op’s finances, structure, and practices.

3. What does “success” look like for the Willy Street Co-op?

Willy Street Co-op can enhance its success by expanding its partner role in maximizing local food sovereignty and organic agriculture in Madison and South Central Wisconsin. “Success” also requires insuring an inclusive community for workers and community members. The Co-op has been accused of uncooperative efforts to suppress workers’ attempts to organize, increasing disparities in wages between management and workers and among workers, taking away benefits from workers, and decreasing possibilities for member involvement and inclusivity. Such measures may bring the Co-op a certain kind of “success” for some people’s pocketbooks, but if a co-op is made of people then success includes addressing these issues. As I appreciate and applaud the achievements of the Willy Street Coop, I will also work with board members to help the coop realize it’s fully emergent potential as a just employer and community model.
Erin ShawErin Shaw
“Willy Street Co-op can be transformative, setting a standard that other co-ops will aspire.”

•  20 Owner signatures: Yes

1. What strengths do you bring to the three Board initiatives of 1.) developing green initiatives, 2.) increasing financial accessibility, and 3.) developing our local food system? How will you utilize these strengths on the Co-op’s Board of Directors? Please provide specific examples.

I have great passion for the Willy Street Co-operative model and will bring numerous strengths to the board, such as:
1) This spring I did research for the Community and Regional Food Systems Project on converting food waste to soil for urban agriculture farms. Throughout this process I learned a great deal about composting and would like to see Willy Street Co-op push for a zero waste model, beginning with a centralized collection of food scraps in the kitchen, break room, and commons.
2) In addition to having attended workshops on grant writing, I have excellent research skills and enjoy thinking strategically about new and different partnerships; all traits that would complement the co-op’s financial accessibility.
3) I am a systemic thinker committed to the development of local food systems and economies. I bring my knowledge and relationships formed during my internship with the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, among which include organizations such as the Organic Processing Institute and the Wisconsin Local Food Network.

2. Why do you want to serve on the Willy Street Co-op Board of Directors?

I bring not only a sincere passion, but also a strong and sustained commitment to the mission of Willy Street Co-op, a commitment that is solidified by my academic achievements, career path, and community service endeavors. This passion has fueled the recent completion of my masters degree in Environmental Studies, with a focus on the role co-operatives have in aiding the development of the local organic food system. In addition to my academic pursuits, I have worked at four food co-operatives and interned at a multi-stakeholder co-operative where I participated in several board meetings. I was also a recipient of the Lemaire Co-operative Studies Award and attended the 2012 Association of Co-operative Educators conference. I strongly believe Willy Street Co-op has the power to be transformative and I would be honored to serve on the board of directors as Willy Street sets a standard upon which other co-ops may aspire.

3. What does “success” look like for the Willy Street Co-op?

Success can be measured by the co-op’s willingness to create a new food paradigm; one that challenges the status quo by increasing transparency and striving for food justice at every step along the supply chain. For instance, are we engaging racially and economically diverse communities; educating around domestic fair trade to ensure farm worker rights; informing consumers of the State and Federal policies that support our local farmers and enable them to keep supplying our co-op; or networking with other co-operatives to create a more cohesive support structure for area farmers? In short, success should be defined not only by fiscal responsibility, but by the co-op’s desire to educate its consumers and thoughtfully engage with the political nature of our food system.


Dan Ramos HaazDAN RAMOS HAAZ
“Recent co-op lover with a background on accounting and IT. Involved in providing resources so co-ops around the nation can be stronger together.”

•  20 Owner signatures: Yes

1. What strengths do you bring to the three Board initiatives of 1.) developing green initiatives, 2.) increasing financial accessibility, and 3.) developing our local food system? How will you utilize these strengths on the Co-op’s Board of Directors? Please provide specific examples.

I currently work for the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA) as their Finance Manager. NCGA is a purchasing cooperative association that provides valuable resources for food co-ops around the nation (including Willy Street Co-op); our goal is to help our members be more competitive in the current food retail environment and provide a successful platform for them to exchange of ideas to support their communities. Through my work with NCGA, I have been able to read and follow Willy Street Co-op’s financial performance as well as their fellow co-op’s.

Also, I recently completed an MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and also hold a Masters degree in Computing Science and a Bachelors degree in Accounting and Finance. I come from an extensive background working for the auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at the University of Wisconsin. Finally, my roots are based in Mexico, where I was brought up in a farm-centric environment (very much like Madison). With this community focused upbringing, I have grown to know the importance of locally sourced food and self-sustainable economies. My family still lives in Mexicoand is still involved in farming as well as sustainable agriculture. They recently built an irrigation system to sustain their crops during dry seasons.

2. Why do you want to serve on the Willy Street Co-op Board of Directors?

I have been a member of the Madison community for the last seven years and been a member of Willy Street Co-op for the last two. During the final semester of my MBA, I analyzed Willy Street Co-op’s current social media strategy as part of a digital marketing course project. As a result, I received more insight on its operational goals and learned about the drive and values alignment of its managerial staff. Being part of this project made me want to get further involved with its mission to empower its membership and strengthen the community. This project also awoke my interest to run for the board.

3. What does “success” look like for the Willy Street Co-op?

As Willy Street Co-op prepares for the next steps in terms of expansion and further community engagement, it is necessary to have a wide set of skills available to achieve these goals. I am running for the board because I identify with Willy Street Co-op’s ends and objectives. I have also read about its current initiatives for growth, and I believe my experience in the professional and educational fields, as well as my resources from NCGA will be very valuable to Willy Street Co-op and its members to achieve its ends. I hope you consider my application and I look forward to be more involved in the decisions that shape the Willy Street Co-op community.
For more information on Dan, go to: http://about.me/drhaaz.

Christopher RamosCHRISTOPHER RAMOS
“Christopher Ramos hopes to combine his experience in finance with his passions for local food and the local economy to serve on the Board.”

•  Attended Board meeting: Yes

1. What strengths do you bring to the three Board initiatives of 1.) developing green initiatives, 2.) increasing financial accessibility, and 3.) developing our local food system? How will you utilize these strengths on the Co-op’s Board of Directors? Please provide specific examples.

Before moving to Madison in 2011, I was one of the founding members of a not-for-profit which advocated on behalf of local businesses and sought to further the local living economy in central Ohio. One of that group’s main efforts was development and promotion of local food businesses, and I was privileged to work with small business owners to understand how to help them succeed and reach sustainability. I will bring this knowledge and experience to the Board, and will work hard to promote Madison’s local food economy. My career in finance, including accounting, financial analysis and strategic business planning, has allowed me to develop the tools and skills needed to make careful assessments of proposed initiatives and policies. It is very important to balance the Co-op’s need for a meaningful return with the owners’ desire to improve financial accessibility for all individuals, and I would be honored to have the opportunity to lend my strengths to further this crucial work of the Co-op’s Board and Owners.

2. Why do you want to serve on the Willy Street Co-op Board of Directors?

Ibelieve very strongly in the Co-op’s vision and philosophy. I feel that the Co-op is an immense asset for the community, and I am proud to be an Owner. A co-op can succeed in a way that no other business can, and the Willy Street Co-op’s commitment to the triple bottom line of “People, Planet, and Profit” reflects that. I seek the opportunity to be an active participant in setting policies to help steerthe Co-op, and would feel lucky to collaborate with the diverse and knowledgeable individuals on the current Board. The demand for local, organic, natural and sustainable products has never been stronger, and I believe that the Board of Directors will be faced with many important decisions in the coming years as it continues to strive to serve both needs of Owners and the community at large. I look forward to talking with Owners, understanding their concerns, incorporating their feedback, and helping to set the future direction of the Co-op.

3. What does “success” look like for the Willy Street Co-op?

To me, success for the Willy Street Co-op consists of several key items: Owners who are satisfied with the Co-op’s selection, accessibility, and value; Employees who are recognized and fairly compensated for their work; Local businesses who feel that they have a true partner and advocate in the Co-op; and a broader community which recognizes the Co-op for being a good neighbor (to other businesses, to the community, and to the planet).


Rek Kwawer

Rek Kwawer
“I will work with the board on planning and visioning to continue to grow the co-op as a viable and accessible retail grocery business.”

1. What strengths do you bring to the 3 Board initiatives of 1.) developing green initiatives, 2.) increasing financial accessibility, and 3.) developing our local food system? How will you utilize these strengths on the Co-op’s Board of Directors? Please provide specific examples.

In previous organizations where I have worked or served on the board, I have strongly supported increasing environmental sustainability and strengthening connections to the local food system, including purchasing in bulk, seeking out local vendors for food and other products, and emphasizing fair labor conditions as a criteria for selecting vendors. I believe that the Willy Street Co-op can serve an important role as an intermediary between local vendors and consumers, providing an expanded market both at the co-op and in the community. I have worked with affordable housing cooperatives and at a dance retreat center, and in both places, sought to increase financial accessibility through programs such as scholarships, work study, and discounts to people with limited incomes. Financial accessibility means making it financially possible for people to join or shop at the co-op, and it also means ensuring that workers at the co-op can earn a living wage and sustain their employment with Willy Street.

2. Why do you want to serve on the Willy Street Co-op Board of Directors?

Cooperatives are one of the most powerful structures for bringing basic products and services into the control of those of us who utilize them. I view the board as the body that creates the vision and strategy for the organization, and I would like to contribute my skills, such as facilitation of group processes, strategic planning, and co-op development, to the Willy Street Co-op. As a member of the board, I will work to provide sound financial oversight and direction to the talented co-op staff, who implement the day-to-day workings of the business. I bring experience with cooperatives, boards, and cooperative boards. I currently work for Madison Community Cooperative, which owns and operates 11 group equity housing cooperatives in Madison. As a staff member of the cooperative, I am familiar with the ways in which a cooperative board interacts with the staff of the organization. I currently serve on the boards of two different housing cooperative organizations: NASCO Development Services (which develops housing co-ops) and NASCO Properties (which owns and manages housing co-ops). Previously, I have also served on the board of Earthdance, a retreat center focused on dance and the environment. In all of these organizational roles, I have become adept at understanding fiscal information including budgets and balance sheets, at staying focused on the relevant issues for the board (not micro-managing), and supporting the mission of the cooperative.

3. What does “success” look like for the Willy Street Co-op?

The Willy Street Co-op is successful when member-owners are making informed decisions about their food choices, receiving maximum benefit from the co-op, and when the co-op is an integral part of its neighborhoods and the local community of grocery co-ops. Success means member-owners understanding what it means to be a consumer grocery co-op owner and shopper, and the benefits of supporting Willy Street Co-op. For a co-op the size of Willy Street, with an ambitious global ends policies, there are many different possible outcomes that qualify as “success.”
For more information on Rek Kwawer, go to: www.facebook.com/RekForWillyStreetBoard.


J. Scott KeslingJ. SCOTT KESLING
“I believe that to change globally we need to think locally. Innovative thinking, active participation and positive support will lead to a greener tomorrow!”

•  20 Owner signatures: Yes
•  Attended Board meeting: Yes

1. What strengths do you bring to the 3 Board initiatives of 1.) developing green initiatives, 2.) increasing financial accessibility, and
3.) developing our local food system? How will you utilize these strengths on the Co-op’s Board of Directors? Please provide specific examples.

I consider myself to be an innovative thinker. When developing green initiatives it is important to think outside the box because in a lot of cases there is not much historical data to draw from. I have always been a person who has strived to be proactive vs. reactive. This allows me to stay ahead of the curve and trends within the food business. Increasing financial accessibility can come many different ways. It can come through buying power, through locally sourcing foods from small and medium size farms and by increasing efficiencies so that food cost margins can be decreased. I have recently started a new business called Victus which is Latin for ‘living; way of life; that which sustains life; nourishment; provisions; diet.’ The mission of our business is to make local food more accessible small and medium-sized restaurants, while continuing to make sure the farmers are being given a fair price. During the research and development of the business, I have learned the importance of the relationship with the growers/manufacturers and current and potential customers. I believe people will “buy” in to the local food movement that is upon us and Willy St. Coop could continue to be a leader in this area.

2. Why do you want to serve on the Willy Street Co-op Board of Directors?

I believe that to change globally we need to think locally. I would like to bring some of my ideas of local food logistics to the Willy St. Co-op to help in the support of local farms of any size. I would like to try and change the frame of mind of those who see the Co-op as an elitist organization when actuallythe Co-op is elite because of its large selection of great food and its large membership base. I also want to support a frame of mind that says that it is okay to make a profit. I truly believe that it is extremely important to be able to continue to grow the memberships, store locations and the out- reach and education programs. All those things will require cash on hand.

3. What does “success” look like for the Willy Street co-op?

Success for the Willy St Co-op would be:
a) Continue to be a leader in natural, organic and local food selection.
b) Continued growth in store locations to grow memberships and accessibility.
c) Increased profit margin to either distribute back to the owners or to use to sustain the mission and goals for future Willy St. Co-op endeavors.



Mike EngelMike Engel
“Let’s work together to get more affordable healthy delicious local food into the mouths of all our friends, family, and neighbors.”

•  Attended Board meeting: Yes
•  Served on Co-op committee: Yes

1. What strengths do you bring to the three Board initiatives of 1.) developing green initiatives, 2.) increasing financial accessibility, and 3.) developing our local food system? How will you utilize these strengths on the Co-op’s Board of Directors? Please provide specific examples.

Passion, dedication, and experience. The Co-op is doing great things. But what can we do to be even better? I’m not satisfied that we are reducing waste, using less energy, buying local products, and increasing accessibility. I want to know that our waste was reduced 10% from last year, that our energy use per dollars of sales was reduced 5%, and that we increased participation in our Access Discount Program and Food Stamp/SNAP customers by 10%. Assessing our current state of affairs allows us to see and measure change. It gives us a basis to set goals and dream of the good our co-op can do in our community.

In addition to keeping track of the Co-op’s progress, I consistently ask where we are going. At a national conference of food cooperatives I attended workshops on: 1) Developing local food sheds through community gardens with an emphasis on urban and economically challenged areas 2) Retail operation in underserved communities (food deserts) and 3) Strategic leadership.

As a founding member of the Co-op’s Strategic Planning Committee, I worked with owners at the Annual Meeting, listening sessions, and other communication to develop ten initiatives. At the Board level, we refined these to three initiatives. With your input, I authored the financial accessibility and green energy initiatives that the Board approved for action. An action plan is developed for these initiatives. We are on the path to doing great things like our recent support of the FEED Kitchen and a Zero Waste Annual Meeting and Party.

2. Why do you want to serve on the Willy Street Co-op Board of Directors?

The co-op rocks! The Board does too! After four years serving as your representative on the Board, I am enthused to keep working to draw the co-op closer to the best organization it can be. I serve as the Board Vice-President, on the Board Development Committee, Investment (employee retirement) and Audit Committee. Formerly, I served on the Strategic Planning Committee and Opportunities Committee. Having been a part of developing our three strategic initiatives, I’m really excited to be a part of implementing them. To better serve you, I have attended training on leadership in cooperatives.

3. What does “success” look like for the Willy Street Co-op?

Success at Willy Street is much more holistic and wholesome than a traditional grocer. Our Ends (Goals) are a great source for defining success. From the big picture we want: Owners to feel part of the Willy Street co-op community and participate in decision-making; celebrate, educate, and promote community; be part of a cornerstone of a vibrant economically and environmentally sound community; work in partnership with local farmers, manufacturers and distributors; Recognize and reward employees as being fundamental to a thriving community; and People of all ages, ethnicity, and economic groups to view the Co-op as an important resource for their well being. If we can engage a more diverse population especially those with fewer means, I think we will be successful.


Courtney BernerCOURTNEY BERNER
“I am a co-op developer and good-food advocate engaged in building a sustainable regional food system that works better for farmers, workers, and eaters.”

•  20 Owner signatures: Yes
•  Attended Board meeting: Yes

1. What strengths do you bring to the three Board initiatives of 1.) developing green initiatives, 2.) increasing financial accessibility, and
3.) developing our local food system? How will you utilize these strengths on the Co-op’s Board of Directors? Please provide specific examples.

As a co-op developer at the UW Center for Cooperatives I work with start-up cooperatives to overcome organizational and market barriers, predominantly in the food and agriculture sectors. I have developed expertise solving complex organizational and food system challenges with a range of stakeholders including growers, processors, and retailers. The Co-op plays a critical role in the local economy, providing a market for other sustainable, socially-oriented businesses, be they farmers, peanut butter producers, or coffee roasters. As a board member I will use my food system and problem-solving experience to expand the Co-op’s role in the local food economy through increased sales of local products and support for projects like FEED Kitchens and the Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative. 

I previously worked for an environmental research organization that informs policymakers and the public about the complex links between the global economy and its environmental support systems. Through this experience I learned how many of our environmental challenges are connected not only to one another but also to the social and economic challenges facing our communities. As the Co-op strives to be greener, an understanding of the ways our purchasing, investment, and operational choices affect our environment is critical if we are to lessen our impact.
Increasing financial accessibility is a critical challenge facing the Co-op. It simply costs more to sell high quality food, supply living wages, and pay farmers fair prices. Increasing the financial accessibility of the Co-op will require direct dialogue with the communities we hope to reach and creative problem solving among Owners, staff, and community organizations. We should also increase the promotion of existing efforts to increase accessibility such as the Access Discount Benefit. My experience reaching out to and working with diverse stakeholders to solve complex challenges will be useful in bringing a larger segment of the population into the Co-op.

2. Why do you want to serve on the Willy Street Co-op Board of Directors?

I have a passion for economic democracy and a commitment to maintaining local control over our food. I believe in an economy in which decision-making power resides with a broad group of stakeholders rather than corporate shareholders alone. As a board member, I will use my outreach, finance, and planning skills to increase Owner participation and ensure the Co-op is doing the best job it can for Owners, workers, and the community. I will also use my relationships within the co-op community to build stronger connections between Willy Street and other regional co-ops in order to increase cooperation among cooperatives and raise the overall visibility of the co-op model.

3. What does “success” look like for theWilly Street Co-op?

The Co-op is successful when it meets its responsibilities to the community and the environment while maintaining its core purpose: providing healthy, natural food at fair prices. Success also means the Co-op is in a strong financial position and thus can take strategic risks to improve financial accessibility, reach out to new communities, and help groups start new cooperatives.