NORTH CRAWFORD School Board and Crawford County Board of Supervisors District 12 will have contested primaries on February 15, and many other seats will offer voters choices on the April 5 general election ballot.
North Crawford School Board
On Tuesday, Feb. 15, voters will go to the polls in a primary election to determine which four of the current five candidates for the North Crawford School Board will appear on the ballot of the April 5 election. In April, voters will select two of the four to sit on the board. One position is a three-year term, and the other is a one-year term.
Voters going to the polls, or voting by absentee ballot, in the February 15 nonpartisan primary election, will be able to vote for two of the candidates on the ballot in the North Crawford School Board election. Ultimately, four of the five candidates on the February 15 ballot will emerge from the primary, and appear on the April 5 nonpartisan election ballot.
Mary Kuhn is a 23-year veteran of the North Crawford School Board, and has served as board president for the past 13 years. Kuhn grew up in Kentucky, attended college in Iowa, and moved to Crawford County in 1977 where she and her husband Leo raised their five children and ran a dairy farm.
Her grandson is currently an eighth grade student at North Crawford. Kuhn was instrumentally involved in educating him last year, while the school was closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am concerned that the kids lost a lot during virtual schooling last year, and am proud of the fact that the district has hired specialists to help kids catch up,” Kuhn said. “My biggest concern is ensuring that we get the kids caught up and get back on track with helping them to succeed.”
Kuhn said that she is running again, in part, because she wants to be on the board when we finally get past the pandemic.
“I want to be there when we can get back to focusing on getting our kids prepared for careers and college,” Kuhn said. “I want to be hopeful, and to be around to see the positive changes.”
Kuhn said she had attended the Wisconsin State Education Convention last week in Milwaukee, and had come back with lots of ideas.
“One big idea I got is for the district to work with students, staff and the community to create a graduate profile,” Kuhn said. “What that means is that we would develop a profile of what our stakeholders want to see district graduates look like.”
She said that for her, it’s all about the kids. She pointed out that in small, rural communities, the school is the main thing that is offered to the kids. She said that if what the district is doing doesn’t benefit the kids, then “we’re not doing our jobs.”
When asked about the idea of transitioning the elementary school to a charter school, Kuhn said that she thinks the idea has merit.
“I talked with Holly Roth, Principal at the Solon Springs School District, where they have an elementary charter school, and are transitioning their middle school to a charter school,” Kuhn said. “I think it would give us a lot more options for parents and students, and that would be a good thing.”
Kuhn said that she wants the voters to know that she is appreciative that the community has entrusted their children to her for the last 23 years. She said that she thinks the community understands that education is very important to her, and that her number one goal is always to ensure that the district provides children with the best education possible.
Dairy farmer Jerry Coleman was appointed to the school board in December of 2021 to fill the seat created by Tanya Forkash’s resignation. He grew up in North Clayton, on the ridge.
“Teachers and role models like Mrs. Barb Duke and Mr. Russell Gilbert were influential throughout my school years at North Crawford,” Coleman said. “After graduating from North Crawford, I balanced farming with my parents, Bonnie and Darold Coleman, and receiving a bachelor’s degree in agriculture business from UW-Platteville.
“I always knew I wanted to continue farming and everyone, including my parents and professors, told me small family dairy farms were disappearing and I would need to take another path,” Coleman explained. “I’m 51 years old and can say that my wife, Katrina, and our two children operate a 350-acre family dairy farm right where I grew up. I’m proud of the persistence and navigation that I put into my dream.”
Coleman’s wife, Katrina also grew up on a dairy farm.
“We appreciate one another’s values,” Coleman said. “She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and after working at the Tomah VA and starting our family, we worked toward her having a private practice in Soldiers Grove. She coordinates valuable programs for our region, and I’m proud of her.”
Coleman said the best days of his life were when their children were born and he became, “Dad.” The couple’s children are in 4K and second grade at North Crawford.
“They have talented teachers, and I’m so happy that my children look forward to school,” Coleman said. “And, when we pick them up, they talk for 30 minutes straight about every piece of artwork, math lesson, SEL with Mr. M, and dance parties with Mrs. Sharon.”
Coleman said that being an impactful member of a board is something he is asked to do every year from various dairy-related corporations. He says that he always decline these offers because his focus is his farm and family.
“So, when asked why I want to serve the North Crawford School by being on the board, it’s a simple response,” Coleman said. “Out of all the systems and people which will impact my family, the school is the most important one.”
He said that having role models and diverse perspectives on boards is important.
“Previously, I did serve as a supervisor for the North Clayton Township Board,” Coleman said. “Knowing our rural area has gaps and opportunities, I am committed to advocating and pioneering innovative ways for the North Crawford School District to serve all elements of education.”
Coleman said that four of the priorities facing the school include physical and emotional health; dynamic education that is person-centered; fiscal, enrollment and operational health; and listening to the dreams and hopes of each one of us.
“Thank you for reading my story,” Coleman said. “I look forward to listening to yours.”
Melany Jelinek is the youngest of nine children, and grew up on a dairy farm between Seneca and Eastman. She married Brad Jelinek in 2001, and both are graduates of the Seneca School District. My husband is employed by Fowler and Hammer and works in LaCrosse.
The two have five children: Brent (employed by Augelli Concrete), Beau (12th grade), Darci (10th grade), Kaylee (6th grade), June (Pre-K), and another one on the way due in June.
“From 2009 to November of 2021, we milked 150-200 dairy goats. We just recently sold our milking goats with the plan of switching to raising meat goats,” Jelinek said. “I take care of my uncle, who has lived with us for the last six years.”
Jelinek said that all of their children have attended North Crawford since 2009, with the exception of the past year, when they made the decision to homeschool the three girls. She said that Darci and June just recently went back at semester, but Kaylee has decided to stay homeschooling.
“I decided to run for the school board because I want to be part of the change that is currently needed,” Jelinek explained. “I would like to see our school get back to focusing on educating our children, respecting parental rights and common sense. Its time to get away from the mandates, and the current discrimination of the vaccinated versus the unvaccinated.”
She said that if elected, she will listen to both sides of the current [pandemic response] issue, along with any other issues, but will remember the Oath of Office I will have to take. According to Jelinek, that oath states that she supports the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Wisconsin.
Charissa Richter grew up in a small town in central Ohio, and she attended Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she graduated with a Master of Occupational Therapy in 2009.
“After graduation, my husband (Jimmy) and I moved to Colorado, where we spent the last 10 years,” Richter explained. “I was working as an occupational therapist, specializing in Parkinson's disease, and my husband worked diligently, growing our vintage/antique business, called Little Boxes Vintage.”
The two moved to the area in March of 2021. They opened the storefront for ‘Little Boxes Vintage’ in the Mercantile Center in Gays Mills in August of last year.
“Last month I resumed work as an occupational therapist at Gundersen Boscobel,” Richter said. “We have a six-year-old son, Cecil, who attends North Crawford Schools and is absolutely loving it.
“I decided to run for the North Crawford School Board because I recognize the impact that our schools have on our children's future. I am invested in this school district, and I would love to be a part of the process to help the school run as effectively and successfully as possible,” Richter said. “I do not have prior experience sitting on a school board, but I have served on multiple community action committees in my time, working at the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati, and have extensive experience working as part of an interdisciplinary team as an occupational therapist.”
Richter said that her work and volunteer experiences have provided her with the skills that will equip her to serve on the school board.
“I am relatively new to the area, but have been attending the school board meetings to stay abreast of the concerns and issues which currently face our school district,” Richter said. “I believe my background in healthcare will serve as an asset to the school board as we face health and safety concerns related to the pandemic.”
She said that she would also like to focus on ensuring that North Crawford families and staff feel heard about their concerns, and that their feedback is considered in the decisions that are made.
“Particularly with staffing shortages and retention concerns, our school staff need to feel appreciated and considered,” Richter stated. “Lastly, I have been involved in a parent committee that has been assessing the possibility of transitioning to a charter school. I think that endeavors such as this are important to the livelihood of our school, and community. Rather than following what other schools are doing, we should carve out our own path to demonstrate what makes our school district unique and amazing!”
Richter says that she is looking forward to contributing as an active member of the community, and would be honored to commit her time and resources to making the school district the best it can be.
Kimberly Blaha was born and raised in Soldiers Grove, to Joel and Bernice Lund, and graduated from North Crawford in 2002.
“I'm married to Beau Blaha, and we have three boys, Deyton, Landen and Owan,” Blaha said. “We live in Soldiers Grove, after moving out of Star Valley a few years ago after one of the devastating floods that had hit the area.”
The Blaha’s son Deyton is currently a junior at North Crawford, while Landen and Owan chose this year to homeschool. Landen will return to North Crawford next year to start his high school career. All three are very active in football, cross-country, basketball and baseball for North Crawford, so they keep their parents very busy, and usually on the run, sometimes in different directions.
“We have a new puppy, Tucker, and the boys love being a big brother babysitter to him,” Blaha shared.
Kimberly Blaha has worked in healthcare since she was 20. From a certified nursing assistant in a nursing home to currently a medical coder at Vernon Memorial Healthcare in Viroqua. She has been at Vernon Memorial for seven years, the last six of those as a medical coder. In addition to working full time for Vernon Memorial from home, this year has had some new challenges, as in addition, she is also a teacher.
“Beau has spent the last 19 years at S&S Cycle, and is very active in coaching North Crawford's middle school football and summer rec baseball,” Blaha explained. “He is well known in the community for all the time he has put in over the years with many groups of kids.”
Blaha described what moved her to run for a seat on the North Crawford School Board.
“I decided to run this year because I want to be a voice for parents and students. I believe all parents play such an important role in our community, for their children, and should have a say their child's education,” Blaha explained. “Parents deserve to be heard. As a parent, I feel like I am often not heard by employees of the school, or by members of the board. I would like to change that. I would like to see parents sitting in on board meetings, and knowing that they are being heard. Parents put their trust in North Crawford to educate their children. I would like to see that continue and expand.”
Blaha said that every child deserves the best learning experience. She wants to make a difference to the school, to the students who go to school, and to those who work at school.
“I love our community and have always been proud to be a part of North Crawford, and I would love to be there to ensure that continues for generations to come,” Blaha said.
Blaha said that in board meeting minutes, months back, she saw that North Crawford enrollment numbers had dropped.
“I think that has to be an issue that is tackled. Enrollment numbers were already low. We barely have enough kids to make certain sports teams,” Blaha explained. “When I saw the numbers from last year to this year, and how many didn't enroll in North Crawford, I knew that enrollment was, and is going to continue to be an issue if we don't make a change. I'm ready to be a part of changes and great things happening at North Crawford.”
Crawford County Board of Supervisors - District 12
There’s a bit more local interest in this year’s spring elections, and it has resulted in the need for a couple of primary elections. One of those primaries will be held in the Crawford County Board of Supervisors District 12 race.
There are three candidates running in District 12 and the primary election set for Tuesday, Feb. 15 will reduce the number to just two candidates in the April general election.
District 12 is composed of the Town of Seneca Ward 1 and the Village of Lynxville.
The three candidates who have filed papers to run for the District 12 seat include incumbent Alan Morovits, who was appointed to serve the remainder of Larry Kelley’s term. Morovits will face challengers Brian Reynolds and Owen DuCharme in the primary election.
The former District 12 County Supervisor Larry Kelley passed away last year.
Alan Morovits is a 34-year-old farmer who lives with his wife Samantha and four young children on Duha Ridge Road in rural Steuben.
Morovits was appointed to serve out the remainder of Larry Kelley’s term, following Kelley’s death last year.
Morovits’ decision to run is pretty straightforward.
“I want to try and help the community a little bit,” Morovits said. “And, maybe change a few things if that’s possible.”
Brian Reynolds is also running for the District 12 County Board Supervisor position. Reynolds, 63, lives with his wife Crisse on Kettle Hollow Road in rural Eastman. The Reynolds have five adult children.
Brian Reynolds is a retired police officer and firefighter from Milwaukee. Reynolds served six years with Milwaukee Police Department, as a police officer, and 20 years with the Milwaukee Fire Department, as Captain paramedic. He currently works as a substitute teacher in the Seneca Area School District.
Given his background, Reynolds is very interested in the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department and the Crawford County Health Department.
“I’m very pro sheriff’s department and very pro health department,” Reynolds said. “I have strong feelings about both of these agencies. That’s not to say I’m not interested in infrastructure, like the roads, and lots of other things.”
Owen DuCharme is also running for the District 12 County Supervisor seat. DuCharme, 72, lives with his wife Diane on Snyder Road in rural Seneca, The couple have six adult children and eight grandchildren.
DuCharme is a retired businessman, who ran Seneca Feed & Supply for 30 years.
DuCharme said he always took an interest in the community and that led him to his decision to run.
“Now, after Larry Kelley passed away, I thought it was time to run,” DuCharme said. “I believe with my business experience I’ll be able to help the county board. And, I have the time.”
April 5 Nonpartisan General Election
There seems to be plenty of interest in some of the local elections this spring.
Crawford County Board of Supervisors
Three seats on the Crawford County Board of Supervisors will have contested elections in the Tuesday, April 5 election.
With three candidates having filed papers for the District 12 seat, previously held by Larry Kelley, there will be a primary election in that district held on Tuesday, February 15.
District 9, composed of the Town of Clayton Ward 1, and the Village of Soldiers Grove will see incumbent Wade Dull face challenger Harrison Heilman.
District 10, composed of the Town of Clayton Ward 2, and the Village of Gays Mills, will see incumbent Don Stirling face challenger Seamus Murray.
District 12, composed of the Town of Seneca Ward 1 and the Village of Lynxville, will have a primary election on February 15 to determine the two candidates who will appear on the ballot for the Spring election on April 5.
The three candidates who have filed papers to run for the District 12 seat include incumbent Alan Morovits, who was appointed to serve the remainder of Larry Kelley’s term. Morovits will face challengers Brian Reynolds and Owen Du Charme in the primary election. The two top vote-getters in the primary will face off in the April election.
In all other Crawford County Board of Supervisors elections, incumbents are running uncontested.
Village of Soldiers Grove
In the Village of Soldiers Grove, there are three trustee seats up for election on April 5, and three candidates who have filed papers. Incumbents Roy Davidson and Shayne Chapman have filed non-candidacy paperwork. Running for the three open seats will be incumbent Harrison Heilman, Jerry Miller who previously served on the board, and Brett Pettit.
Five candidates will vie for two open seats on the North Crawford School Board. One position will be for a three-year term, and one position will be for a one-year term to finish the term of office vacated by board member Tanya Forkash’s resignation.
The five candidate names will appear on the ballot of the February 15 primary election, with the four top vote-getters advancing to the spring election on April 5.
The five candidates who have filed papers to run for the two open seats include incumbent, and school board president, Mary Kuhn, and challengers Melany Jelinek, Kimberly Blaha, Charissa Anne Richter and Jerry Coleman.
Seneca School District
In the Seneca School District, four candidates have filed papers and will run for three open seats.
The two incumbents running for re-election are Crisse Reynolds and Shawn Lenzendorf. Both candidates were appointed to the board following the death of board member Larry Kelley and resignation of board member Chad Sime. Sime and Kelley were both longtime members of the board.
In appointing Reynolds and Lenzendorf, the board chose two former board members to fill out the terms of Kelley and Sime.
The third seat appearing on the ballot this spring is currently occupied by Rachael George, who has chosen to not run again.
Two new faces have also entered the Seneca School Board race. They are Adam Green and Eric Grimsled.
There are three three-year seats open in the spring election. So, barring a write-in vote, it appears three of the four candidates will win a seat on the school board.
Village of Gays Mills
In the Village of Gays Mills, four candidates are signed up to run for three available seats. Those candidates include incumbents Seamus Murray and Lee Ruegg. The other two candidates are Ethan Eitsert and Craig Anderson. Anderson is a past Gays Mills Village President.
Long-serving village trustee Aaron Fortney has decided against running again.
As mentioned earlier, what appears in this story are the names of candidates who have gathered the necessary signatures and submitted their papers to the appropriate clerk by the filing deadline. There may also be registered and unregistered write-in candidates.
To be a registered write-in candidate, those running have until noon Friday before the scheduled Tuesday election to sign papers with appropriate clerk.
Although a registered write-in’s name will not appear on the ballot, they are eligible to have their votes counted and compete against the other eligible candidates. However, unregistered write-in candidates will not have their votes counted nor can they compete or win an office where other candidates have completed their papers and appear on the ballot or are registered write-ins.
An unregistered write-in can only have their votes counted in the absence of any other legally signed-up candidates, which can be either registered write-ins or candidates appearing on the ballot.