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Monroe County Matters

Author: Kate Rice

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The drama, comedy and joy of a Wisconsin bellwether county from By the Seat of My Pants Productions
20 Episodes
Diane Coenen, the immediate past president of the Wisconsin Municipal Clerks Association and the current city clerk for Oconomowoc, Wis., talks about pride and integrity among Wisconsin's elections professionals and public servants. There's dramatic difference between her calm professionalism and some of the wild rhetoric that's been flying around!
I've been hearing a fair amount of ranting about voter fraud, so I decided to talk to an election expert, someone who has been working in the trenches of elections for 25 years. Meet JoAnn Cram city clerk in Tomah, Wisconsin. She does an excellent job of explaining the systems designed to keep our ballots--those we mail in and those that we cast in person--secure. Nothing like talking to someone who actually knows what they're talking about!
How did Erin Klinkner get from the suburbs of the Twin Cities and dreams of being a veterinarian to dairy farming up on the Ridge? She took a detour or two, among them a stint as a cowgirl in Wyoming. Now, instead of cutting horses, she's managing cows, calves, chickens and four kids!
The Dairy Farmer

The Dairy Farmer


Ben Klinkner grew up on a dairy farm and went off to college swearing to his parents that he would never milk a cow again. His wife, Erin, was a city kid who grew up dreaming of being a vet. Guess what happened. You got it. Now they have 60 head of dairy cows and Erin's in charge of raising new calves--the farm's future. And they're both raising their four kids. But this podcast is about more than farming. It's about making choices about your life. And it's also about a different kind of capi...
Dr. Amy Van Deuren, superintendent of the Sparta Area School District, talks straight about school in the time of Covid.
Did you know that the Westby Creamery is 70% organic? That it sells about $68 million worth a product a year? Not just here in West Central Wisconsin, but across the nation?And, that it's nearly 120 years old? Hmm, something about this cooperative model seems to work!Here's what the creamery's general manager had to say about what it does and how it works. Meanwhile, here's a link to a video about an average day in the life of the Westby creamery.
KwikTrip is not your average convenience store. The milk you buy came from a cow just down the road from you. It has been using the close-to-the-source model for decades. It works directly with local suppliers and cooperatives to keep prices low and food fresh. And, it shares 40% of its pre tax profits with all of its 28,000 employees. The owners get less than 5%.
Wisconsin has more than 700 cooperatives--far more than most other states. What is a coop? It's democratic democracy, a model that is about far more about producing a return for investors and instead produces a return for the community. I talk to two experts, Lynn Pitman and Kelly Maynard of the UW Center for Cooperatives. You have no idea how many cooperatives are in your life. And they include my beloved Green Bay Packers. Which may not fit the technical definition of a cooperative, but it ...
Heidi Prestwood, the new executive director of the Sparta Chamber of Commerce, started the job in the middle of the pandemic.One of her first tasks--helping local businesses get financial aid. And guess who stepped up to the plate first? Local banks. And then the state and the feds.But, we don't talk just about Covid. There's a post-Covid world out there and some of it you can enjoy right now and the rest you can look forward to!
Kayleigh Day, community health educator calmly explains the factors determine the county's severe risk factors--it's more than the number of cases--and how to bring those numbers down.She discusses the Covid 19 compass, the partnership with surrounding counties and the detective work of contact tracing!
Farmers and Covid 19

Farmers and Covid 19


2020 had been shaping up to be a pretty good year for Monroe County farmers. And then, Covid 19 hit. Monroe County's UW Extension agriculture agent, Bill Halfman, talks economics, distribution, supply chain and disaster aid. It's looking a little better folks, but just in case, I'm putting a little more half and half in my coffee!
Mike Arenz and his dad, Gene, talk about running a small family business for five generations. Arenz's has had stores all over the tri state area. It's weathered world wars, depressions, the disruption of big box stores like Pamida and Wal-Mart, the internet and the six-month shut down of Water Street, Sparta's main commercial thoroughfare. And they've done it by being nimble, planning ahead when they can and turning on a dime when they can't. And they're following these same basic rules with...
A 15-year-old organizes a Black Lives Matter march in her mostly white hometown. Nellie Sprawls, born and raised in Sparta, Wis., lives with her mom, who is white; her father is African American. And both the Sparta PD and her community back her. Click here for photos!
The Village of Weston is opening ITS pool--but with even more limitations than the city of Sparta considered. Weston is a village of 14,000. It's near Wausau, in Marathon County, which also has a low number of Covid-19 cases. Here's an interview with Shawn Osterbrink, director of Parks, Recreation and Forestry for the village of Weston. And here is a link to the Wisconsin Parks and Rec Association's most recent spreadsheet showing which Wisconsin pools are open, which are closed and which are...
Across the nation, cooped-up kids and frazzled parents who had been hoping for some semblance of a normal summer are finding their hopes dashed. In Wisconsin, communities are scrambling for guidance on what to do and in Sparta, Wis., that means the city council reversed the decision it made just last week to open the pool. But, it does okay adult soft ball games, turning for guidance to Wisconsin Health Services recommendations. And, it also cancels the Fourth of July fireworks because of con...
Here we go again! Mayor Kristin Gust calls another special meeting of the Sparta City Council in the wake of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services recommendation that all public pools remain closed and a push to have adult summer rec programs. This week, you can attend this meeting remotely, click here for that link. Then, Kayleigh Day, community education educator for the Monroe County Health Department talks about how Covid-19 spreads and how individuals, businesses and the comm...
Mayor Kristen Gust cast the tie-breaking vote to open the Sparta Aquatic Center at the May 26 City Council meeting. But, it's gonna be different! On a related matter, the council voted 5 to 3 to cancel its usual summer adult and child summer rec schedule. Here's how it's going to work!
Once again, Wisconsin's in the headlines. As people across the nation hit the beaches by the sea or lakeside, there were a lot of photos of crowds in Wisconsin. In Monroe County, the Sparta City Council is holding a special meeting to decide what it's going to do with the Sparta Aquatics Center. Nearby towns like La Crosse and Holmen have already decided to keep their pools closed.
A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities


The two biggest towns in Monroe County each have mayors who own bars. They describe what it was really like when Wisconsin re-opened after its Supreme Court threw out Gov. Tony Evers' Safer at Home order. It's not what you saw in the national media. At least not in Monroe County. Sparta Mayor Kristen Gust and Tomah Mayor Mike Murray talk about reopening their cities and their businesses. We hear about Friday night fish fries and Wisconsin's go-to cocktail. And we also learn a bit of Tomah's p...
By The Seat of My Pants Productions launches Monroe County Matters. A look at a purple-to-red corner of the state of Wisconsin and why it ends up in national and international headlines so much.