I’m a business owner, small farmer, parent, and grandma. I cherish misty Driftless sunrises, strong coffee and the lush Pecatonica River valley that curves through rural Blanchardville where I live.
I was born in dairy country outside Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to a steel worker dad and a stay-at-home mom. I wanted to experience the big city, so I moved to the Midwest at age 17 to study journalism at Northwestern University in Chicago. On the first day of classes, I met my future husband, Shannon, and we stayed in the city for a while until my heart and body started craving the green spaces and open places of my youth. We moved to Blanchardville 16 years ago, sending our four kids through the Pecatonica Area School District while we repaired our barns, improved our soil and fell deeply in love with our strong, supportive agricultural community. We run wool sheep in a managed grazing system, and raise steers, goats, chickens, ducks and hogs on pasture. We grow vegetables and herbs for our award-winning bed and breakfast, which brings over 700 guests to our village of 825 every year. Shannon has restored our 135-year-old farmhouse, as well as three vintage campers we rent to guests. We enjoy fixing old things and dreaming up new projects.
I am fiercely committed to the wellbeing of my family, my neighbors, and Southwest Wisconsin. I have years of experience tackling tough issues, tight budgets and political disagreements as a Lafayette County Supervisor. I have a deep knowledge of the issues facing our region because of my service as a Southwestern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commissioner, and a Board Member of Workforce Development, SWCAP, and the Community Leadership Alliance of Southwestern Wisconsin. In my village, I belong to the Blanchardville Woman's Club and Blanchardville Community Pride, Inc. I'm a member of the Trout Unlimited Harry and Laura Nohr Chapter, Wisconsin Farmers Union, Wisconsin Conservation Voters, Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce and the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation. I am a DNR Conservation Patron.
In 2017, I founded the Pecatonica Pride Watershed Association, a farmer-led water protection group that works to improve the Pecatonica River and it's tributaries. In 2015, I started Blanchardville's Main Street Farmers Market. I was also one of three "Soil Sisters" who led the charge in 2016 to overturn the state's unconstitutional ban on selling home baked goods. Now our neighborhoods and farmers markets are filled with baking start-ups, adding money to the economy and making life extra sweet. Rural Main Streets need more traffic, activity, color, open doors and opportunities - and I'm ready to get busy making it happen.
My top priorities have long been protecting natural resources, promoting historic Main Streets, building regional economies, supporting family farms, and attracting new families and businesses to the region. I am immensely proud of rural Southwest Wisconsin, and I will fight in the legislature to secure the resources our towns, schools, farms, and businesses need to survive and thrive post-COVID and into the future. I'm focused on getting high-speed broadband to every rural resident, creating incentives and support for medium-scale regional meat and milk processing plants, helping farmers build profitable local markets and in general pressing in now to fix those pain points for rural people that the pandemic has made more painful.
Our life here in the country is wonderful and important - we're growing the nation's food, fuel and fiber and we're holding the carbon and green space that support a world of breathing creatures. Our opportunities are vast. Our future is bright. Let's work hard and have fun getting there, together.
I'm known to some as the Cookie Lady, some as a Soil Sister and others as Madame County Board Supervisor. Now I want to be your voice in the Wisconsin State Assembly, and when I get there I'll speak loud enough to cut through partisan shouting matches. Here's what I think we need most:
Fair Maps: Pass a non-partisan redistricting solution in 2021. No more excuses, no more waiting, no more hiding behind party leadership. Democracy dies when politicians are able to choose their voters, rather than the other way around. If you hate the partisanship and dysfunction in government, ending gerrymandering is the single most powerful way to encourage representatives to work together.
Small Towns: Invest in schools, roads, senior housing, internet, mental health access, and Main Street redevelopment. Rural places are the soul of our state and the engine of our economy - but we need up-to-date basic tools so we can get back to work. The COVID shutdown exposed the shameful state of internet deserts in our rural communities, as many of our families were forced to travel and sit in school parking lots for hours per day to get children's homework done.
Family Agriculture: Support diversification to help farm portfolios and local economies bounce back after COVID - only stronger, better, more resilient and more responsive to demand. Offer producers support to leave monopoly markets and develop short supply chains. Provide continuous research and development to help small- and mid-scale processors meet regional demands. Failure to quickly build regional food infrastructure and help a significant portion of our farmers transition out of consolidated global markets will accelerate the catastrophic exodus of farm families from the industry. Incentivize a "Solar Field for Every Farm" and connect agriculture to the clean energy industry in Wisconsin - expanding opportunity for both and healing the atmosphere.
Food Freedom: Expand opportunities for agricultural entrepreneurs by following the lead of Montana, Utah and North Dakota and allowing direct farm sales of canned goods, baked goods, meat and diary products without burdensome regulation. Give consumers access to the farm-to-table goods they want. Allow neighbors to support neighbors.
Clean Water: Ensure that rural places can provide the quality of water and quality of life that attract and retain workers, families and businesses. Return to the conservation ethic that made us "The Nation's Summer Vacation" back when Gov. Gaylord Nelson led the national charge for protecting natural areas. Let's make Every Day is Earth Day in beautiful Wisconsin, and we'll find that our tourists will start to become residents, business owners and entrepreneurs helping to rebuild our economy.
Healthcare Reform: Approve Medicaid expansion so that our rural hospitals, which are struggling desperately as a result of the COVID shutdown, can be reimbursed adequately for services provided to the poor and the elderly. Wisconsin currently refuses over $1 billion a year in federal money that could help keep rural hospitals providing quality care for everyone. Shame on our Republican legislative leadership for blocking this expansion for almost a decade. And shame on the Republicans in Washington, DC, for not controlling skyrocketing prescription prices.
What's your story? What's your struggle? What's your big idea? I’d love to meet you - with a mask on - and see the places you love in the 51st.