Meet the Board Candidates!

Meet the Board Candidates!


REGISTRATION TO VOTE ONLINE WILL CLOSE AT NOON ON SATURDAY,
AUG. 15th. SEE BELOW FOR REGISTRATION DETAILS.

click here to meet the new board members

Five seats are open on the Willy Street Co-op Board of Directors. Make sure to vote by Tuesday, August 18th at 6:00pm. Candidates were given a 475 total word limit.
Statements are listed alphabetically; (I)=Incumbent.

There are 13 candidates. To vote online, please contact Customer Service; they will confirm you are an Owner in good standing, record your e-mail address and e-mail you a link to your unique ballot. To sign up to be e-mailed a link to your unique ballot, please e-mail with your first name, last name and member number. Please register 36 hours before voting online. Online voting runs through midnight on Sunday, August 16th. For more online voting information, see here.


Rick Bernstein

Phone: (608) 251-4615
E-mail:

1. What needed skills or abilities will you bring to the Board of Directors in any of the following areas: finance, communications, short/long term planning, or cooperatives? Be specific.

In the 1970s I worked with food on three levels: producer, wholesaler and retail. First I worked as a part-time day manager for the New Paltz Food Coop in New Paltz, New York. I ordered the produce and managed the store and learned some basic retail principles about food.

For a year I worked at a worker-owned organic foods wholesaler, Community Produce in Seattle Washington. There I learned about wholesaling organic foods as well as taking part in running a worker-owned collective.

For a spring I interned at an organic farm—Cascadian Farm in Rockport, Washington—when it was still a strawberry and potato farm, well before it became a division of Birds-Eye. There I learned first-hand a thing or two about organic farming. All of these I would hope would help me be a better Coop board member.

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

My most recent leadership accomplishments have come from been on the board of the Marquette Neighborhood Association for five years, the last year and a half as president

While on the MNA board I took the lead in the fundraising and development of two neighborhood development plans: 1) the Willy Street BUILD I Plan (2000) which focused on the 1100, 1200, 1300 blocks of Williamson Street, an area that includes the Coop. The other, Willy Street BUILD II Grant (2004), focused on the 600-1100 blocks of Williamson Street (2004). Both plans involved bringing various neighborhood organizations and groups together and securing funding of as much as $26,000 from MNA, Dane county and various private sources.

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?

As Winston Churchill once said, democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried. The more people are given an opportunity to be involved the more likely they will support the final decision and the greater the chance of success. Group decision-making can be messy, time-consuming and costly, but in the long run an essential underpinning of democracy.

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 the above issues?

It’s clear that the most pressing issues the Coop faces stem from its ongoing growth. Topping the list is the proposal to expand to a second site. The Coop’s single most limiting factor is the current site, which lacks both sufficient storage for a fast-moving inventory and increasing demand for patron parking. These pressures have resulted in a tension between two competing visions. One to acquire a second site to relieve the pressures of the current site; the other to safeguard what they cherish about the Coop by exploring other solutions. Without knowing more of the specifics I can’t say which I prefer. But I can say that I would approach this issue as I do others by carefully researching and listening before making a decision.

Tom Christensen

Phone: (608) 255-4242
E-mail:
Address: 1243 Jenifer St., Madison 53703

1. What needed 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? Be specific.

For 42 years I have been in business, learning and mastering sales and marketing, customer service, employee relations, budgeting and planning skills. I offer to the Coop these skills plus my experience and expertise from retail, importing, national distribution, and 27 years of writing business plans, and providing business financial analyses for myself and clients. My writing and speaking skills are refined and impactful. Thru graduate studies in psychology and business consulting, as a CEO, proprietor, leader of community organizations, and national expert on Cultural Development I have a very applicable understanding of group dynamics and development.

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

I was Treasurer and President of a Madison organization of over 1400 members, The Peace Project, that for years originated annual, monthly, and weekly events and publications. We found ultimate success when a Peace Studies curriculum was added to the Madison Public Schools. I later took this work into Israel and Palestine, and today Fatah is using it to reduce conflict and increase economic well being in the West Bank. I was the first Hospice Specialist in UW Hospitals, opening that culture to eventually accepting hospice work as standard procedure. Under my two terms of President for GWABA our membership more than doubled, a feat, not accomplished before or since. As CEO of LookingGlass Technologies, Inc., I drew start up funds from local investors, and got the attention of most Fortune 100 Companies. The Christensen Company, with a staff of two, has over the last 25 years often sold more Central Madison real estate than any other company, some with hundreds of agents. My business, The Kitchen Gallery, during this depressed economic time has seen an increase in sales of over 25% this year, and this is prior to 4th quarter sales.

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?

Groups have an identity of their own, just like individuals have. However, the center of gravity, where meaning is found in groups, falls within a standard range, which is best described in the literature on Spiral Dynamics. I am a certified expert in this area and will bring that knowledge to bear in my contribution to making the Board, the Membership, and the Community at large healthy entities.

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 the above issues?

The main issue the Coop needs to address is defining its values, and ensuring staff, management, members, and the wider community know clearly what the Coop stands for and what legacy it wishes to leave. Without clearly defined values there is no reliable and enduring character at the core. This weakness arises only out of lack of attention to regularly naming and reclaiming core values. Particularly, the Coop’s relationship with its adjacent and founding community has suffered seriously in the past year and this disease at its core needs to be healed. It is ultimately the Board’s responsibility, on behalf of the membership, to articulate Coop values and ensure that Management embodies them in all Coop activities.

Fae Dremock

E-mail:

1. What needed 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? Be specific.

I managed a theater group in Louisiana, I volunteer as a civil mediator in the Dane County eviction court (through the TRC), I currently serve as president of my condo association, and I grew up in poverty in Texas. These experiences and my working as a teacher for 5 years in small-town Louisiana and for 2 years in Cairo, Egypt, have given me experience working with diverse populations and have strongly sharpened my mediation and communication skills in team projects.

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

I served on the Water Utility panel for the siting of a replacement well for Well 3 and for the creation of a standard operating procedure for citizen involvement in Water Utility facility planning (adopted by the Common Council). I served briefly as Vice-President of Marquette Neighborhood Association and was a member of the MNA Preservation and Development Committee. As an officer of my condo association, I recently negotiated and ran a 4-year construction repair project that replaced 3 exterior building walls and the roof. As a manager/director of the Monroe Experimental Theater (Monroe, Louisiana), I coordinated marketing, publicity, and performances for 2 years.

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 have years of experience as a mediator and teacher. Although finding true complete consensus in any group is rare, finding common ground, although at times difficult, makes for the strongest decisions. Diversity of opinion, mutual respect, and individual willingness to cover ground (yet again) creates good group process, and individual emotional attachment to any given position, although challenging to a group, is often a catalyst for better group process. I think the strongest challenge to group process and timely decision making, however, lies in the willingness of individual members to truly engage in process rather than simply waiting to vote.

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 the above issues?

I think the economic environment and the health of family farms and organic agriculture will continue to be a primary focus of the coop and the board. We need to make sure the coop stays financially healthy and continues to support small farmers as well as the health of our neighborhood(s). I also strongly feel that the board and the management team together need to start envisioning the future these economic, social, and environmental challenges will bring us.

Carl Durocher

Phone: (608) 251-8637
Address: 1441 Williamson St., Madison 53703

1. What needed 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? Be specific.

Prior to December of 2008, I had been the treasurer for the Madison Homebrewers & Tasters Guild, responsible for all aspects of the organization’s $250 thousand budget: receivables, disbursements, preparing reports to the Board and members, filing annual 990’s and overseeing insurance.

I believe I’m particularly adept at respecting multiple sides of competing interests and building coalitions.

To planning, I bring the perspective of time. My member number is only four digits.

I’ve been committed to Co-op principles since I bought bonds to finance the move from what is now Mother Fools into what is now the Petinary in the 1970’s.

I grew up in a home that produced and preserved most of our own food and composted everything before it was called “living green”.

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

For the past four years, until June of this year, I have served as Chair of the City’s Transit & Parking Commission, the governing body of Madison Metro with an annual budget of $50 million. While serving on the Commission for over ten years, I had to balance the needs and interests of the riding and tax paying community with fiscal imperatives in the context of frequent public controversy.

I have developed a good rapport and familiarity with City elected officials and department heads and can work with the Co-op’s Board and General Manager to help the co-op move forward.

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 have worked with and for co-ops, collectives, not-for-profits, governmental and academic institutions. Disparate points of view are inevitable. The group process is a function of the idiosyncrasies of the individual personalities.

The challenge is to keep a focus on the common objective and not let a collective decision making process degrade into a win-lose battle with interpersonal acrimony as a result. There is no benefit in suppressing healthy debate and wide ranging input.

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

We vote with our dollars as much as we do with our ballots, or even more so. That is to say, that how and where we spend our money has an impact on how goods and services are produced and distributed. The Co-op’s gross in 2008 was over $17 million which was recycled back as payroll and cost of goods sold. All of those financial resources are diverted from the GMO’s, the Monsantos, the Wal-Marts, the labor exploiters of the world and channeled into conscientious, artisanal, traditional, sustainable and/or local producers and thereby fostering them, helping them grow. To sustain and increase its impact, growth is desirable for the Co-op, for us member/owners and for the planet.

I will support responsible growth that does not put the Co-op in jeopardy through expansion leveraged by incurring risky high levels of debt.

I will work toward expanding the Co-op’s presence by considering a second site.

I will work toward maintaining peace in the neighborhood while maintaining vehicular access to the store during any period of Williamson Street construction.

Mike Engel

Phone: (608) 218-3620
E-mail:
Address: 826 Jenifer St., Madison

1. What needed 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? Be specific.

As a wildlife biologist for a federal agency, I have experience with strategic planning for endangered species and other wildlife. This allows me to step back and see the bigger issues and make decisions based on the on whole picture rather than a singular small aspect. I work professionally to maximize limited budgets by leveraging private dollars with grants, develop and implement direct marketing to private landowners and facilitate multi stakeholder working groups for conservation issues. I frequently plan and organize successful events focused on education and implementation of conservation actions.

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

For three years I served on the Marquette Neighborhood Association Board (the neighborhood within which the Coop resides). I ended my tenure as President of the Board appointed by fellow Board Members. During my tenure, we created a competitive Community Improvement Grant, continued our wonderful community festivals supporting numerous organizations, and most importantly won the battle to keep our neighborhood school open!

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 am a founding member and past Chair of a not-for-profit conservation organization representing professionals from over 80 businesses, agencies, and not for profit organizations. My philosophy on successful group decision making is threefold; establish appropriate working group size, leave personal bias at the door and respect individuals opinions regardless if I agree or not. I accomplish this by striving to always find common ground, coming to the table to stay, and enjoying the work I commit to.

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 the above issues?

For the past five years I have served on the Opportunities Committee of the Coop to explore options of increased service to members. Our successes include the opening of the Off Site Kitchen and approval of a second retail site, and exploration of greater involvement with local food production and processing.

As a member owned cooperative, it is imperative that the Coop continue to improve the engagement of its owners. I will foster integrating community events into the Coops marketing and member outreach program. The Off Site Kitchen needs to explore new markets for its products. An example of a solution to meet both these needs is the Coop Kitchen Staff cooking breakfast at the Winter Farmers’ Market.

A second retail site needs to open to relieve the pressure of the current store.

Suzanne Gaulocher

Phone: (608) 354-1864
Address: 5749 Forsythia Place, Madison 53705

1. What needed 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? Be specific.

I served three years on the Wisconsin Cooperative Housing Association (WCHA) Board of Directors. WCHA is a co-opted neighborhood that co-owns and manages ~23 acres of wooded land and green spaces. This experience provided me opportunity to learn about financing (WCHA has a large budget), communication and planning. We had to make decision about fund allocation, distribute monies for maintaining our woods and use our monies for community events and programs. Additional experience includes communicating effectively with a board of nine people with diverse representation of views and work styles. As a board, we acted as liaisons in our community, representing the views of neighbors at the monthly meeting.

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

I have been a board member with WCHA (see above) and have also held positions on different committees. I was on the steering committee for the Master of Public Health Program during my time as a graduate student at UW Madison. I have spearheaded initiatives through my work (public health). For example, I led dialogue sessions for a documentary called Unnatural Causes: Is Inequity Making us Sick?, and identified issues and developed action steps for addressing the issues. Finally, I am co-chair of our neighborhood Ecology Committee. We designed and implemented a community challenge to reduce electricity use by 10% cumulatively for volunteer households. The Ecology Committee is a project-driven committee and my role is to design and carry out specific tasks oriented around education, behavior change and knowledge exchange. Additionally, all of the aforementioned positions involve building connections between individual and groups of people, which is an important part of my life philosophy.

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?

Every voice should be heard; peoples’ lived experiences are vital to decision making. Group decision making involves learning about issue and identifying how issues are interconnected with each other (a systems perspective), hearing all points of view and then making informed decisions. Representation of diverse voices is a must. In my work and personal life I have strived to incorporate the voice of people who are not usually invited to the table.

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 the above issues?

The major issue the coop’s board needs to address includes a west side location. I also believe everyone should have access to healthy, organic, local produce and products and would like to see increased focus on food accessibility for those who cannot afford it in our community. I would love to be involved in community work, food and environmental justice issues (a coop is a perfect leader for this kind of stuff) and thinking about making the coop as accessible as possible to the entire community. I am committed to addressing social and environmental justice issues from micro to macro level changes (this includes a west side location). I think it starts with accessibility to local and wholesome food AND information that is culturally appropriate for coop users.

Tiffany Gaumond

Phone: (608) 217-8916
E-mail:

1. What needed 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? Be specific.

As a member of the co-op for over 5 years and a staff member for over 2, I am very committed to our continued success as a means of providing to the community that we are here to serve. It is only through thoughtful business decisions that we will remain sustainable and viable into the future. I believe firmly in the value of cooperatives as alternatives to conventional institutions. I have lived in cooperative housing, where I held the position of finance officer, the responsibilities of which included overseeing and planning a difficult remodel, as well as managing the budget. Making decisions for that co-operative, I learned quickly that short and long term planning are inextricably linked. Those who care about the Willy Street Co-op wish to see it thrive into the future.

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

Currently I serve on the Employee Council as a representative of the juice bar. I love being part of an organization that solicits input from the members and the staff. I strive to infuse fellow workers with my enthusiasm for participatory management and have received much support on my ideas and proposals. I am also happy to work at the customer service desk and participated in the recent, complicated transition in our membership structure. I am face to face with our members daily and am aware of the wide variety of issues that are important in this business and to us as individuals.

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 am not one to shy away from group decision-making. Working towards a master’s degree in counseling, I have learned much about different people’s approaches to problem solving, including my own. I believe in being assertive without sacrificing patience or diplomacy. I keep the focus on the issue at hand, and resist being sidetracked by individual egos or pet issues. Working together with people who care about the same organization, while sometimes trying, is extremely rewarding.

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 the above issues?

The first issue that comes to most of our minds is that of the second store. This subject has been exciting and, like any major change, unfortunately, divisive. I look forward to being able to help with the transition to two stores. I plan on helping the co-op move into the future and remain current, while not forgetting our roots. I will apply this ideology to all issues that arise during my term. We have a very unique culture of committed members with strong opinions. It is my goal to ensure that any changes we make respect that. It is very important to me to balance sustainable business practices with our values and history. I am confident that this is possible.

Kevin Geary

E-mail:
On Twitter - username: GearyWillySt

1. What needed 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? Be specific.

My work at AIDS Network here in Madison keeps me in constant contact with my co-workers as well as outside agencies, requiring strong communication skills. One of my responsibilities is to assist my co-workers in applying for grants and tracking how we use the money once we receive it. My work in these areas is essential for our finance director to ensure that we stay under budget. Furthermore, addressing both our client’s immediate and long term needs would not be possible without careful short and long term planning. While I do not have direct experience working in a cooperative, being a member of a start-up CSA in New York City, as well as working on a small organic farm in Ecuador, has inspired me to learn more about the Co-op movement and, ultimately, join Willy Street Co-op.

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

While working as a paralegal in a large litigation law firm in New York City, one of my responsibilities was managing the day-to-day aspects of several large cases. After collaborating with the attorneys to establish work plans it was my responsibility to delegate the work and ensure that our goals were met on time. This process, while challenging at times, gave me the confidence to take ownership of a project and see it through to the end.

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?

The group decision-making process can be both extremely rewarding and extremely challenging, and it is something that I have always felt very comfortable with. When collaborating with a group it is important to keep in mind that there will always be disagreements. The most important thing, however, is to focus on what you agree on. Since board members represents the collective voice of the co-op community, a successful candidate for the board of directors must possess the dedication and patience to listen to every opinion and search out for that common ground. While the end result may not be everybody’s ideal, it will embody the consensus of the community, which is what I believe to be a central pillar of the Willy Street Co-op philosophy.

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 the above issues?

I believe that the most important task facing the Co-op’s Board is ensuring that the high quality of products and service we receive remains high well into the future. When I first moved to Madison one year ago I was thrilled to have to have the opportunity to join the co-op and to have it so close by. I understand the desire to open a second location and fully support that effort; however, this will undoubtedly put strain on our current resources. As a board member I will utilize my strength in collaborative long term planning to ensure that this transition period goes as smoothly as possible, and that the future of Willy Street Co-op will be as bright as it is today.

Dave Grace

Phone: (608) 294-9953
E-mail:
Address: N Baldwin St., Madison

1. What needed 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? Be specific.

For the past 15 years I have been directly involved in working with financial cooperatives (credit unions) by serving on the board of two such organizations and for the past 11 years as part of the executive management of the World Council of Credit Unions, a global non-profit for financial cooperatives. In my work, I interface with public policymakers from around the globe helping them understand finances, how cooperatives operate and what environments are needed for long-term growth of cooperatives. An existing board member of the Willy Street Co-op asked to run for the board as he feels my experience could benefit the Co-op.

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

From 2004-2007, I was a board member of the fastest growing credit union in the United States. This financial cooperative provides financial services to low-income immigrants. During my tenure on the board the cooperative grew from two locations to six. Providing direction and oversight to a rapidly expanding cooperative with complex finances are skills I have that could serve the members of Willy Street Co-op well at this juncture.

As Vice President of member services for an international non-profit working on microfinance, I created and launched an international money transfer service that provides low-income immigrants with an affordable way to send money home to developing countries. This service has transferred over $2.6 billion over the past 8 years. I’ve designed South Africa’s first deposit insurance system for cooperative banks and have drafted and modified laws and regulations for cooperatives in over a dozen developed/developing countries.

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?

In working with policymakers in the European Union and developing countries, consultation and consensus are critical. With group decision-making it is imperative that people come to the table having done their homework and that the group fully understands the issues and ramifications of its decisions. The governance and decision-making processes in cooperatives are their greatest strengthen and weakness—all in one. The community connections and member buy-in of coops is unmatched. However, arriving at this process in a cooperative generally takes longer than in a private business and requires patience.

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

My wife, Denise, and I joined the Willy Street Co-op 11 years ago when we moved to Madison. Our family of four shops exclusively at the Co-op. As the Co-op grows in the coming years we need to do it in manner that keeps our values, finances and funk in check. Funk? Yep, I’ve worked with hundreds of cooperatives and some co-ops have it and some don’t. Those with funk thrive and those that don’t muddle along or die. The way you get it is by keeping members engaged, the way to lose it by being unresponsive and not including members. I’ve been on the board of two cooperatives during periods of expansion and the Willy Street Co-op is on the cusp of growth. Let’s not be afraid of good growth.

George Hofheimer 1. What needed 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? Be specific.

In addition to being a longtime co-op member, I bring three years of experience as a Willy Street Co-op Board member including recent chair assignments on the Finance and Audit committees. In my most recent professional experience, I am the research chief for a consumer finance think tank where I advise financial cooperatives on a range of strategic issues including finance, governance and sustainability topics. Previous professional experience includes seven years leading a professional development and training practice for credit unions, five years as a Peace Corps Volunteer and community/business development adviser in the former Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan.

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

I have had a wide range of leadership positions throughout my professional career. Paradoxically, the most relevant was my first job out of college as a Peace Corps Volunteer. My accomplishments may look meager on paper: a few people learned basic business principles, a handful of rural students were introduced to the English language and a few thousand dollars of grant money was award to my host community for basic infrastructure projects. However, I take great pride in the success my counterparts have had over the past decade since my departure. These emerging leaders in fields as varied as education, business and government are truly changing the world. My small contribution to their success is what energizes me. That is the philosophy of leadership I promise to bring to the Willy Street Co-op board: enabling the success of others, including the co-op’s owners, board and staff.

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?

The most important step in making the right decision is defining the issue and collecting all relevant information. Making the right decision may not satisfy everyone, so sharing the thought process that went into your decision can help defuse people unhappy about the ultimate outcome. When the board makes decisions which do not have a favorable outcome, it is important to audit your past process and make sure you don’t make the same mistake twice. This past year the board, staff and other volunteers exemplified this learning by using a detailed process for second store expansion opportunities.

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 the above issues?

Over the next five years, Willy Street will likely expand beyond the friendly confines of the near east side of Madison. Leading this expansion in a sustainable manner is the major issue facing Willy Street. As your board member I would use my experience, skills and passion to ensure Willy Street staff has the right tools and a clear direction to meet this challenge. Additionally, I would spend a good deal of time attempting to understand the changing needs and wants of Willy Street owners. Balancing the needs of all Willy Street Co-op owners will likely alienate a group of existing or future owners, but please know that I will aim to make decisions in the long-term interests of all stakeholders.

John A. McNamara

Phone: (608) 256-8453
E-mail:

1. What needed 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? Be specific.

I will graduate Beta Gamma Sigma with a Masters in Co-operative and Credit Union Management from St. Mary’s University in Halifax in 2010.The coursework included equity management, accounting, human resources, marketing, strategic planning and co-operative governance in addition to a field trip to learn about best practices at Mondragon. In addition, I learned about the co-operative experience outside of the United States from fellow managers. I have over 20 years experience working in a co-operative (Union Cab) and 6 years as a manager and eight as a director. I have served on Union Cab’s strategic planning committee for seven years. I blog about worker co-ops at rochdale.livejournal.com.

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

I served Union Cab of Madison as president for four years. During this period, my principle achievement was to guide the co-operative in the development of its core values. During my service on the Alcohol License Review Committee, we moved away from relying of informal rules and began drafting written rules for operators and license holders to understand.

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 believe the consensus model is the best approach for group decisions. Stakeholders should either support the decision or understand why the decision was made while seeing the process as open, honest and fair. This means taking the time to actively listen to each person’s ideas—not coming to the table with a solution before the discussion even happens. The group must also start at the beginning so as not to assume that everyone is on the same page. This means asking the key question of why the organization should consider action on an issue-how does it relate to the mission of the co-operative and the values and principles of the co-operative movement. If those basic questions can’t be answered in a way that shows their connection, then the proposed plan might not be a good idea to begin with. This can take more time than other processes, but the result will be better because it will be supported by the key stakeholders and connected to our principles.

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 the above issues?

As organic foods continue to find their way into mainstream stores, the co-operative will face stronger competition. The co-op needs to start working towards a new co-operative paradigm in terms of management and relationship marketing to utilize its comparative advantage as a co-operative. Developing strong worker loyalty will translate into a stronger engagement of the owners. In addition, the co-op should consider a social audit along with the fiscal audit of the co-operative to determine where co-op may improve. As a scholar of co-op management and a manager as a worker co-operative, my skills and knowledge will be uniquely suited to helping the co-operative improve and build a stronger bond with the 80-90% of the members who experience the co-op as a grocery store, not as an owner.

Emily McWilliams

Phone: (608) 469-3320
E-mail:

1. What needed 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? Be specific. [She answered #1 & #2 together.]

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

As an undergraduate at UW-Madison I served as the Staff/Finance Coordinator for the Campus Women’s Center. In this position, my responsibilities were to author and implement a budget of $80,000, recruit an advisory board of community leaders and co-author a strategic plan for the collective’s outreach and growth. During this time, I also co-founded a performance collective that raised over $7000 for the Rape Crisis Center. The following year, as the Chair of the student government I was part of a team responsible for the implementation of $250,000 internal budget, the coordination of grassroots campaigns, the hiring and evaluation of professional staff, and the innovation of a long-term organizational plan.

During the remainder of my time as a UW-Madison student, I worked as a community organizer for the Violence Prevention Unit of University Health Services (UHS). My main job responsibility was to strengthen UHS’s visibility in the community by facilitating partnerships between UHS and local and campus organizations.

As I evolved as an activist, I came to realize that conviction is not enough to bring about change—strategic organizing features a synergy between passion and pragmatism. This is why I pursued a Masters degree in Social Policy at Oxford University. Since graduating, I have been working as a jack-of-all-trades for a progressive state legislator. Through this job I have honed my policy analysis and communications skills while keeping my finger on the pulse of social and political developments at the local and state level.

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?

As detailed above, I have extensive experience with professional group decision-making processes. I believe it is essential to—through active listening and relationship building—create a safe space for dialogue and brainstorming. As a critical thinker and direct communicator, I also strive to make group meetings efficient and keep dialogue on target by constantly bringing to bear the objective of the meeting of the greater organization.

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 the above issues?

One of the most obvious and exciting challenges facing the Co-op today is the possibility of expansion. It is essential to keep owners engaged in the process of growing the Willy Street Co-op. As a member of the Board of Directors I will work to maintain the lines of communication that currently exist while also finding new, innovative ways to increase owner involvement. Crucially, we must work together as a cooperative as we face the financial challenges resulting from road construction on Williamson St and increasing competition, and as we continue to grow our sense of identity beyond our immediate neighborhood and into the broader Madison area. My experience as a community organizer and activist, coupled with my pragmatism and strategic focus, will help the WSGC Board more effectively communicate with the WSGC owner community, and develop and implement strategic goals to best serve the needs of the Co-op’s present and future owners.

Deb Shapiro

Phone: (608) 712-6368
E-mail:

1. What needed 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? Be specific.

My skills are communication, public service, and co-op experience. I’m an instructor and librarian at UW-Madison, and regularly use the web, email, and other forms of technology, as well as writing and speaking, to convey complex ideas. As a teaching librarian, I study ways public institutions can deliver effective services to their clientele. My long history of co-op involvement begins with going to co-op summer camp in Michigan at age 16, through joining and using co-ops for everything from groceries to housing and babysitting and artists’ studio space, and employment—I drove for Union Cab for about 6 years. I believe deeply in the power of the cooperative model: by reinvesting profits in the business and serving owners’ needs, the co-op flourishes. I have served on several co-op boards, including Union Cab and Monroe Street Coop—at these co-ops, I was a member of the founding Board, and wrote bylaws. I’ve been on Willy Street’s Board for almost 4 years.

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

I have often been chair of a committee or group charged with planning an event—a librarians’ conference, or fundraiser. Recently, I chaired a committee that planned and presented a successful 2-day library technology conference, with close to 500 attendees, and three dozen programs. Last fall, I worked with REAP, organizing a cake decorating contest for the Food for Thought Festival. I’ve raised two sons as a single mom.

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 have a lot of experience with meetings; everything in the library world is done by committee! I’m good at meetings; I am prepared, and rarely absent. I try hard to listen as well as to speak. The best group process happens when everyone in the group feels they have been heard, and we’re moving forward towards a decision that everyone feels good about. Groups get bogged down when too much time is spent revisiting ideas—forward motion changes into a backtracking loop.

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 the above issues?

Growth and owner engagement are two of the major issues facing the Co-op. We are no longer a small organization. Some of our methods for involving owners worked nicely when we had several hundred members, but don’t scale well to our current 16,000. I think it’s important that all members feel as involved and informed as they wish to be—that they can participate at their own chosen level. Not everyone is interested in serving on the Board, or Board committee, or taking a class on cooperative principles—but we must ensure that all owners know as much as they want about the inner workings of the co-op, and that they have avenues to make their opinions heard. I believe that my skill with using both new technologies and traditional methods to communicate, combined with my experience as an educator and librarian providing public service, can help the WSGC Board tackle these issues.