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Meet The Board Candidates!

Meet The Board Candidates!
VOTING IS NOW CLOSED. SEE THE RESULTS HERE!

Three seats are open on the Willy Street Co-op Board of Directors. Make sure to vote by Tuesday, August 17th at 6:00pm. Your ballot is below! Candidates were given a 450 total word limit.
Statements are listed alphabetically; (I)=Incumbent.There are four candidates. 


Board Candidate - Karen Bassler1. What skills or abilities will you bring to the Board of Directors in any of the following areas: finances, communications, short-/long-term planning, or cooperatives? Feel free to add other qualities you would bring to the Board.

I have been a consultant to non-profit Boards, in strategic planning, leadership development and governance, for over a decade. I understand Board roles and procedures. I am also a trainer and presenter, providing education and skill building to diverse audiences. My experience is outlined on my website: www.superiornonprofits.com.

In addition to being a planner and facilitator, I am also adept at coalition building and collaboration, helping groups see common ground and work together to achieve more than they could on their own. I readily grasp the big picture and can devise a workable, measurable plan for getting there.

I have many years of retail experience, including four with Magic Mill Natural Foods, so have some understanding of what it takes to run this type of business.

Above all, I have a passion for good food, promotion of local, sustainable agriculture and community involvement. Follow me on Twitter to learn more: http://twitter.com/SuperiorNonprof.

2. What leadership positions have you held and what have you accomplished in those positions?

A year ago, I started my own consulting business. In doing this, I have had to develop a business plan, marketing plan, and budget. I made use of all my connections to build a presence in my community and develop a client list. This has been the biggest test of my “leadership” abilities so far!

3. Please describe your experience with, and approach to, group decision making processes. What do you think makes for good group process and what are some of the challenges?

Most of the decision making processes that I have been involved with have been consensus-based. A key to this process is providing sufficient information in a timely manner. There are situations where it is appropriate to delegate decision making to a smaller group or an individual, provided they are given guidelines within which to operate. In either case, a balance must be struck between ensuring all viewpoints are heard and making timely decisions. Discussion should be encouraged, but limits set. One challenge in any decision making process is a reluctance to risk failure.

4. What do you think are the major issues the Co-op’s Board needs to address over the next five years? How will you use your skills to contribute to addressing those issues?

The top issue will be the opening of the westside location. This will require good, clear communications at all levels, and a structure in place to address conflicts. Another issue that the Coop may need to address is food security—the increasing number of Dane County residents without steady access to food. How should a Coop be a part of the solution?

5. How would you help to encourage greater Owner involvement in elections, Owner forums and meetings?

As the Coop has grown, it has been hard to maintain the small community feel of its earlier days. But there are some steps that could revive involvement by Owners: Online forums where member comments could be made to the group as a whole for discussion. Inviting Owners to join committees of the Board for specific projects or ongoing policy discussions. Sharing minutes immediately after each Board meeting. Making a tshirt or hat that says “WSGC Board Member” for Board members to wear when they shop, to encourage other members to stop and chat.

Board Candidate - Michele Dickinson1. What skills or abilities will you bring to the Board of Directors in any of the following areas: finances, communications, short-/long-term planning, or cooperatives? Feel free to add other qualities you would bring to the Board.

I have a bachelor degree in business administration and sociology with minors in accounting and economics. I currently work for UW-Extension planning state-wide professional development conferences. I bring prior program development and board experience, with a variety of non-profits.

2. What leadership positions have you held and what have you accomplished in those positions?

Advisory committee chair, WINR Donated Wheels—I helped start the non-profit in Portage County and served as chair for about 2 years. I helped secure $25,000 in grant funding and $25,000 of in-kind support. Portage County Empty Bowls, for 3 years I coordinated the raffle, developed the website, and found and trained volunteers for the event. I have been involved in community initiatives through participation in the United Way Volunteer Center Advisory Committee, United Way Community Impact Solutions team, Community Planning Council, Portage County Alliance for Youth, and Portage County Hunger Prevention Partnership.

3. Please describe your experience with, and approach to, group decision making processes. What do you think makes for good group process and what are some of the challenges?

I coordinate professional development conferences in which the decision about topics to cover and invited presenters is made by a committee of content experts. I lead these committee meetings. For each group I use a majority rule decision making process. I have taken workshops in leading meetings and am very familiar with other decision making processes. A good process results if the decision making rule (majority, consensus, consensus minus one, etc) is defined initially in the group agreements and expectations when a group starts meeting, creating an open space where all involved are able to present their ideas without judgment or criticism. Challenges often include making decisions that everyone agrees on (which is why consensus works in very few situations); and managing a conversation going “off topic” and as a leader balancing letting people share their ideas and keeping a meeting on track.

4. What do you think are the major issues the Co-op’s Board needs to address over the next five years? How will you use your skills to contribute to addressing those issues?

Continued strategic and “smart” growth. I have worked with other boards in strategic planning processes and through growth and development phases. In addition I have participated in program evaluations and program sustainability plans. The Co-op also should focus on image among community non-members. Many people I’ve talked with often cite that is too expensive and that’s why they don’t shop there. I lead marketing and outreach efforts at UWEX—similar skills would be needed to highlight the Co-op’s variety of choices both in product and price range.

5. How would you help to encourage greater Owner involvement in elections, Owner forums and meetings?

Often I haven’t participated because I wasn’t aware of things. Giving members the information at check out via little bright flyers, printing the information on the bottom of the receipts in all caps, creating an e-mail member list to send out notices (and also to send the Co-op newsletter to save paper and postage), using Facebook more extensively are all avenues that could create greater owner awareness and involvement.

My full resume can be found at: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=185006868#!/notes/michele-dickinson/resume/413038548723

More information about the professional development conferences I plan can be found at: http://www.uwex.edu/ces/flp/conference/
Board Candidate - George Hofheimer (i)
1. What skills or abilities will you bring to the Board of Directors in any of the following areas: finances, communications, short-/long-term planning, or cooperatives? Feel free to add other qualities you would bring to the Board.

My skills in each of these areas have been honed through 15 years of senior level experience in banking, cooperative development, consulting and community development. I have acquired professional training in business administration through the acquisition of a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the UW-Madison. For my full bio, please visit: http://www.linkedin.com/in/hofheimer

2. What leadership positions have you held and what have you accomplished in those positions?

For the past year I have held the position of board president at Willy Street Coop. Additionally, I have chaired Willy Street Coop’s finance and audit committees. I’ve been on the board a total of 4 years. During this tenure your Co-op successfully negotiated a lease for a second retail site and has experienced sales growth in each of those years. In my professional life, I lead the research and consulting functions for an international credit union (cooperative banking) think tank. Previously, I held a variety of public and private sector leadership positions in Washington, DC and the former Soviet Union, including a stint as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan.

3. Please describe your experience with, and approach to, group decision making processes. What do you think makes for good group process and what are some of the challenges?

A good group decision making process includes solid preparation, soliciting individuals’ opinions and creating a suitable environment for making a decision. As Willy Street becomes more complex and serves a variety of new constituents, having a smooth decision making process will be critical to our Coop’s future. Willy Street’s process toward selecting, negotiating and signing our lease for the Middleton retail site is a prime example of how this decision making process can work. I will strive to replicate this type of process, if re-elected.

4. What do you think are the major issues the Co-op’s Board needs to address over the next five years? How will you use your skills to contribute to addressing those issues?

The number one issue facing our Co-op is the successful integration of the Middleton retail site into our operations. While the board is not involved in the Co-op’s operations, if elected, I intend to create the right environment and resources so that management can successfully tackle this critical issue.

5. How would you help to encourage greater Owner involvement in elections, Owner forums and meetings?

As Willy Street Coop grows into an increasingly complex organization, owner involvement will also become more complex. With two retail sites we now need outreach in two communities. Greater use of advisory groups is a promising idea. Also, I would propose looking into social media as a tool to communicate to a larger and more diverse ownership base. If elected, I would work with fellow board members to figure out the right approach to owner outreach as I believe it is a priority we need to focus on going forward.
Board Candidate - Sonia M. Kubica

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1. What skills or abilities will you bring to the Board of Directors in any of the following areas: finances, communications, short-/long-term planning, or cooperatives? Feel free to add other qualities you would bring to the Board.

I have 10+ years experience in non-profit planning and fundraising, and have worked most recently in Madison’s commercial real estate community for several years, where I have learned a great deal about the Dane county market. I am confident in my ability to communicate efficiently and creatively.

Additionally, I have twin passions for both food and community-building. Being an owner of the Co-op fulfills me uniquely: I have an ability to support local farmers; buy delicious food; share in a mission with my neighbors; and support local organizations. I consider Willy St Co-op an extension of my home and lifestyle!

2. What leadership positions have you held and what have you accomplished in these positions?

I have previously served on programming and development boards of several organizations in Milwaukee and, in 2000, cofounded the Milwaukee Artist Resource Network (MARN): a networking and technical assistance agency for artists in all media. Within 2 years, we acquired a membership of over 350 artists and achieved 501(c)(3) incorporation. Today, MARN boasts a paid membership of over 1000 and holds symposia attracting scores of people around Wisconsin. I have also participated in the leadership development program with the UW Small Business Development Center.

3. Please describe your experiences with, and approach to group decision-making processes. What do you think makes for good group process and what are some of the challenges?

I have much experience in being part of small, dedicated teams and am extremely comfortable wearing different hats when necessary. I think respect is at the foundation of good group process as well as a focus on mission. Respect inspires the confidence to think freely and creatively, constructively assess the ideas and then effectively delegate responsibility. The mission serves as the guiding force and can unknot thorny problems. When challenges are encountered, reinforcing respect and fostering healthy communication can help an otherwise effective group work through these hurdles.

4. What do you think are the major issues the Co-op’s Board needs to address over the next five years? How will you use your skills to contribute to addressing those issues?

As the Co-op enters this new phase of growth, I would like to see Willy East and West develop their own role within the organization, and the Board nurture complementary development betwixt the two. I can put my planning skills to use as we develop goals for each store that guide us toward the WSGC mission.

I also look forward to increasing the diversity of Co-op owners throughout the Madison area, through partnering with local nonprofits, e.g., those that participate in the CHIP or CommunityShares programs, for workshops or seminars.

5. How would you help to encourage greater Owner involvement in elections, Owner forums and meetings?

One of the reasons I am interested in becoming a Board member with WSCG is the fantastic level of commitment that the Board has to its Owners! Key to increasing owner involvement would be to increase the Co-op’s relevance in people’s lives. An idea would be to add a workshop on consumer finance, or have regular “Owner’s choice” referenda on the website and in the Reader on products management is considering for purchase? Another suggestion would be to email Owners asking for agenda items for forums.
To learn more about me, email inquiries to .