WAUKESHA — Gov. Scott Walker framed his bid for a third term Sunday as a continuation of the policies and themes he has championed during the past seven years.
He touted some $8 billion in tax cuts so far, promising more, though without specifics. He highlighted the state’s record employment level, calling for an economic climate where “everyone can find not just a job, but a career to support themselves and their families.” And he pledged to fight a growing opiate drug epidemic.
“That’s a pretty clear agenda,” Walker said. “We’re not satisfied with just where we’re at. We’re ready to move forward because there’s more to be done.”
One year out from election day, Walker cautioned his supporters that the road to re-election would be a “challenge” because the “big government special interests in Washington have already made us a target” — a familiar target from his past campaigns when Democrats controlled the White House.
Walker will grapple for the first time with an unpopular president from his own party in the White House. At this point, President Donald Trump’s approval ratings are lower than any modern president, the Washington Post reported Sunday.
“That’s going to be a challenge for Walker to navigate,” said UW-Madison professor Barry Burden. “Whoever the Democratic opponent is will run ads showing Walker in the oval office standing next to Trump.”
Walker will also have to navigate the uncertain political terrain of the state’s $3 billion tax incentive to Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn, which is expected to create some 13,000 jobs in Racine County. A recent Marquette Law School Poll found lukewarm support for the deal in southeastern Wisconsin, the area most likely to benefit. Walker didn’t mention the company in his remarks.
Walker’s approval level in the Marquette poll dipped to 37 percent when he ran for president in 2015. It has since rebounded to 48 percent as of June, though the poll hasn’t been conducted since the Foxconn deal was announced.
Walker will face off against one of a growing list of Democrats. Candidates so far include state superintendent of public instruction Tony Evers, former Democratic Party chairman Matt Flynn, Milwaukee businessman Andy Gronik, former Wisconsin Democracy Campaign executive director Mike McCabe, Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, and Rep. Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire.
“The reason we have so many people interested in running is because people can clearly see the direction our state is taking under Scott Walker and Republican leadership is so alarming,” Democratic Party of Wisconsin chairwoman Matha Laning said ahead of Walker’s announcement. “Walker is vulnerable like we’ve never seen before. Walker and his agenda are unpopular and beatable.”
About 300 supporters cheered Walker as he took the stage at Weldall Manufacturing. Among them was Deanna Young, a retired homemaker from Wauwatosa, who has volunteered for Walker campaigns since Walker was a Republican legislator.
“He’s always seemed like a nice, sincere guy,” she said, crediting Walker with sticking with the Republican agenda of “low taxes and making our taxes work. Doing more with less.”
Walker shook hands with supporters for nearly an hour after his speech ended. He didn’t take any questions from reporters.
Outside Weldall, a slightly larger crowd of protesters chanted “si se puede” in opposition to legislation that would penalize so-called sanctuary cities and demanded an increase in the state’s minimum wage.
Walker has opposed raising the state’s minimum wage, which is the same as the national rate of $7.25 per hour. In 2010, before he took office, 14 states had higher minimum wages than Wisconsin. As of the beginning of this year, 28 states have a higher minimum wage.
Peter Rickman, one of the organizers of the protest, criticized Walker’s opposition to raising the minimum wage and his support for laws that have diminished labor unions in the state.
“Low-wage Walker has made Wisconsin much worse for working people,” Rickman said.
Walker is planning to tour the state over the next three days with stops on Monday in La Crosse, Eau Claire, Wausau, Rhinelander and Green Bay, where he plans to tailgate ahead of the Packers game. On Tuesday he’ll be in Appleton, Oshkosh, Fond du Lac, Sheboygan and Janesville and on Wednesday he’ll be in Hudson, Superior and southwestern Wisconsin.
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas — A man dressed in black tactical-style gear and armed with an assault rifle opened fire inside a church in a small South Texas community on Sunday, killing 26 people and wounding at least 16 others in what the governor called the deadliest mass shooting in the state’s history. The dead ranged in age from 5 to 72 years old.
Authorities didn’t identify the attacker during a news conference Sunday night, but two other officials — one a U.S. official and one in law enforcement — identified him as Devin Kelley. They spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the investigation.
The U.S. official said Kelley lived in a San Antonio suburb and didn’t appear to be linked to organized terrorist groups. Investigators were looking at social media posts Kelley made in the days before Sunday’s attack, including one that appeared to show an AR-15 semiautomatic weapon.
In a brief statement, the Pentagon confirmed he had served in the Air Force “at one point.” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said records show that Kelley served in Logistics Readiness at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 until his discharge. The date of his discharge and the circumstances under which he left the service were not immediately available.
At the news conference, the attacker was described only as a white man in his 20s who was wearing black tactical gear and a ballistic vest when he pulled into a gas station across from the First Baptist Church around 11:20 a.m.
He crossed the street and started firing a Ruger AR rifle at the church, and continued after entering the building. As he left, he was confronted by an armed resident who chased him. A short time later, the suspect was found dead in his vehicle at the county line, Martin said. There were several weapons inside.
Martin said it’s unclear if the attacker died of a self-inflicted wound or if he was shot by the resident who confronted him. He said investigators weren’t ready to discuss a possible motive for the attack. He said the dead ranged in age from 5 to 72 years old. Twenty-three were found dead in the church, two were found outside and one died after being taken to a hospital.
Federal law enforcement swarmed the small community 30 miles southeast of San Antonio after the attack to offer assistance, including ATF investigators and members of the FBI’s evidence collection team.
Among those killed was the 14-year-old daughter of the church’s pastor, Frank Pomeroy, and his wife, Sherri. Sherri Pomeroy wrote in a text message to the AP that she and her husband were out of town in two different states when the attack occurred.
“We lost our 14 year old daughter today and many friends,” she wrote. “Neither of us have made it back into town yet to personally see the devastation. I am at the charlotte airport trying to get home as soon as i can.”
The wounded were taken to hospitals. Video on KSAT television showed first responders taking a stretcher from the church to a waiting AirLife helicopter. Eight victims were taken by medical helicopter to the Brooke Army Medical Center, the military hospital said.
Megan Posey, a spokeswoman for Connally Memorial Medical Center, which is in Floresville and about 10 miles from the church, said “multiple” victims were being treated for gunshot wounds. She declined to give a specific number but said it was less than a dozen.
Alena Berlanga, a Floresville resident who was monitoring the chaos on a police scanner and in Facebook community groups, said everyone knows everyone else in the sparsely populated county. Sutherland Springs has only a few hundred residents.
“This is horrific for our tiny little tight-knit town,” said Alena Berlanga. “Everybody’s going to be affected and everybody knows someone who’s affected,” she said.
Regina Rodriguez arrived at the church a couple of hours after the shooting and walked up to the police barricade. She hugged a person she was with. She had been at an amusement park with her children when she heard of the shooting.
She said her father, 51-year-old Richard Rodriguez, attends the church every Sunday, and she hadn’t been able to reach him. She said she feared the worst.
Nick Uhlig, 34, is a church member who didn’t go Sunday morning because he was out late Saturday night. He said his cousins were at the church and that his family was told at least one of them, a woman with three children and pregnant with another, is among the dead. He said he hadn’t heard specific news about the other.
“We just gathered to bury their grandfather on Thursday,” he said. “This is the only church here. We have Bible study, men’s Bible study, vacation Bible school.”
“Somebody went in and started shooting,” he said, shaking his head and taking a long drag of his cigarette.
President Donald Trump reacted from Japan, where is his on an Asian trip, that he was monitoring the situation.
He called the Texas church shooting “an act of evil,” denouncing the violence in “a place of sacred worship.” He pledged the full support of the federal government. He said that in a time of grief “Americans will do what we do best: we pull together and join hands and lock arms and through the tears and sadness we stand strong.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called the shooting an “evil act.”
Sutherland Springs is in a rural area where communities are small and tight-knit. The area is known for its annual peanut festival in Floresville, which was most recently held last month.
“We’re shocked. Shocked and dismayed,” said state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, a Laredo Democrat whose district includes Sutherland Springs. “It’s especially shocking when it’s such a small, serene area. These rural areas, they are so beautiful and so loving.”
Zaffirini said she had called several county and local officials but not been able to get through and didn’t have any firm details.
The church is a white, wood-framed building with a double-door at the entrance and a Texas flag on a pole at the front area. A morning worship service was scheduled for 11 a.m. The first news reports of the shooting were between noon and 12:30 p.m.
The church has posted videos of its Sunday services on a YouTube channel, raising the possibility that the shooting was captured on video.
“Americans will do what we do best: we pull together and join hands and lock arms, and through the tears and sadness, we stand strong.” President Trump
WASHINGTON (TNS) — Republicans enter the new election cycle already carrying the weight of Sisyphus: Rarely does the party in power gain seats in midterm congressional elections. But in 2018, they have an additional burden to bear, as Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether Donald Trump’s team colluded with Russia drags into the campaign season.
As the recent indictments and guilty plea of three Trump campaign aides foreshadow, Mueller’s expansive inquiry will put Republicans who have been supportive or at least tolerant of Trump’s behavior on the defensive as they try to win re-election and maintain control of Congress.
“Certainly if we’re in a scenario where it’s totally consuming the news cycle, it will be very hard for Republicans to point to accomplishments,” said Kevin Madden, a Republican communications strategist and top adviser to Mitt Romney, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee. “You could have a very animated opposition that could help Democrats really energize their base to show up on Election Day.”
John Weaver, the chief strategist for Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s unsuccessful fight against Trump last year to top the GOP ticket, offered a more lyrical description of the prevailing Trump-Russia climate: “There will be a blue wind blowing that will make it difficult for the party in power to win anyway, much less with Siberian clouds moving in.”
Mueller’s investigation is likely to continue through next year, if not longer. Several veteran prosecutors have said that the guilty plea and cooperation of George Papadopoulos, an obscure, low-level campaign foreign policy adviser who sought out Russian contacts, shows that Mueller is pursuing a tried-and-true legal strategy of starting with the minnows before gradually reeling in the trophy fish.
More politically explosive revelations are likely looming, they say, as Mueller painstakingly ascertains that every nail in the cases he is building is secure, every screw tightened.
“It would come as no great shock to me that we hear about some other sealed pleadings,” said David Weinstein, a former U.S. attorney.
On paper, Democrats remain at a disadvantage heading into the 2018 midterm elections. In the Senate, they have to defend 25 of their 48 seats, while Republican need to hold off challenges in just eight of their 52 seats. In the House, the GOP holds a 45-seat majority.
But it doesn’t help Republicans that Trump’s approval rating right now is 34 percent, according to the latest Pew Research Center survey. Other polls show that if the 2018 midterm election were held today, voters would prefer Democrats over Republicans by anywhere from 6 to 16 percentage points.
Still, much can happen over the next 12 months. A Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 58 percent of the public supports Mueller’s investigation. But Trump’s core support won’t budge even if Mueller finds that he did, in fact, collude with the Kremlin to win the presidency, according to yet another poll, this one by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling. Moreover, his support among Republicans overall nears 80 percent.
But if the 2016 campaign teaches any lessons, it’s that political tradition is overrated, polls can be wrong and the preference of many voters in an age of political distrust and dysfunction is like the will-o’-the-wisp: elusive and possibly misleading.
And Democrats, the likely beneficiaries of all the political turbulence, have a tendency to implode in self-defeating squabbles over progressive purity. They’ve also displayed a distinctive inability to craft a simple, coherent message that appeals to wayward moderates and others who abandoned them for Trump’s “Make America Great Again” manifesto.
“This is going to hurt, but it will hurt both parties badly,” Republican strategist Kim Alfano said of the ongoing Mueller investigation. “There is no such thing as a safe incumbent anymore. Anyone in office today is going to be under siege in their elections. Challengers will win. And the Democrats will misunderstand and think they have the mantle, just as we mistakenly thought we had the mantle. We don’t. We’re all in trouble, and yeah, this Russian crap just makes it that much worse.”
Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and a lawmaker well-steeped in the Russia investigation, said he has advised his party to focus less on Trump and his problems and more on the kitchen table issues important to voters.
“I urge candidates to talk about what they’re going to do to improve the economy, bring jobs to communities that don’t have them, secure retirement, pay for kids’ education,” he said.
It would be a mistake if the Democrats’ message next year is simply “resist,” said Douglas Heye, a former spokesman for the Republican National Committee who has been critical of Trump.
“This would be the time for them to put forward some serious proposals to talk about what they would do,” he said. “The ‘resist’ message only appeals to Bernie (Sanders) voters and hard-core Clinton supporters.”
Democratic pollster Mark Mellman said Democrats don’t necessarily need to make Trump the focus of their message because awareness of the Mueller investigation into his alleged Russian ties is so pervasive.
“It’s everywhere,” he said. “It’s not really something anyone has to do ads on. It’s on TV nonstop, in newspapers. The news coverage will be so intense it will have an effect.”
There’s no way to know for sure the direction Mueller’s digging will take. The indictments of Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, and campaign adviser Rick Gates on money laundering charges seemingly unrelated to claims about Russia is seen as the special counsel’s opening gambit.
“It would appear they are intending to use it as leverage,” said Weinstein, the former federal prosecutor. “They’re letting them know we have evidence of what we believe are ties to allegations of Russian interference.”
The end point to Mueller’s work is anyone’s guess. The Watergate investigation began as a probe into a burglary at Democratic Party headquarters, and led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon two years later.
Whitewater started out as a real estate probe, morphed into an inquiry into President Bill Clinton’s affair with a White House intern, and resulted in a vote by the House of Representatives to impeach him. The Senate subsequently declined to convict. But all told, it took six years for Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr to shut down the investigation.
“The Starr investigation kept going and going as if there was never going to be an end,” said Ken Gormley, the president of Duquesne University and a former dean of its law school who has authored books on Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox and the clash between Clinton and Starr. “That’s not how a good independent counsel goes. The real job is to move it toward a conclusion to end this uncertainty that hangs over the country.”
He said Mueller is a seasoned prosecutor who will hew to his mandate without a lot of theatrics, though one thing can, indeed, lead to another — and Mueller’s mandate permits him to go after crimes he encounters in the course of his probe. Still, “it’s unlikely he’s the kind of person who will be hopscotching from investigation to investigation just to keep it going,” Gormley said.
In any case, Matthew Miller, a Justice Department spokesman during the Obama administration, said the Mueller investigation is a political time bomb: “There are a lot different ways this could blow up right in the middle of the election.”
A champion of urban education. An advocate for people with disabilities. A voice for social justice. The 11 honorees of the 2017 YWCA La Crosse Tribute to Outstanding Women have diverse backgrounds, ages and occupations, but Rose Reinart can define them all with one word: grace.
“Everyone kind of had their own journey and came to where they are in a different way,” said Reinart, development director for the YWCA La Crosse. “But all of them have made an impact and touched many lives.”
On Thursday, each will share a few words about their inspirations and aspirations at the 34th annual Tribute to Outstanding Women on Thursday at the La Crosse Center.
About 30 adults and students were nominated for the honor by friends, family, teachers and colleagues, with a committee of community members making the final decision.
“We really focus on how these individuals live the mission of YWCA La Crosse — eliminating racism, empowering women, mentoring and advocating, with well-rounded, balanced lives,” Reinart said. “We look at this event as an evening to celebrate theses women who are doing amazing work. It’s unique to have an entire event centered around honoring women — as women we don’t celebrate ourselves, we’re not taught to do that.”
Young participants in YWCA’s programs will be guests at the program, a valuable opportunity to gain exposure to strong female role models, encourage them to focus on the future and inspire them to become outstanding women themselves.
“This (honor) is a big deal,” Reinart said. “The response is this means a lot to the honorees, and is something that will remain kind of a highlight in their lifetime.”
Historian, award-winning writer and former reporter Sue Hessel has nominated others as Outstanding Women, never expecting a nomination herself. But her own ambition, perseverance and unfailing positivity haven’t gone unnoticed, leading Sheila Garrity and Maureen Freedland, among others, to submit her name for the 2017 Trailblazer award.
“A trailblazer does what she can, where she is, with what she has. That’s Sue Hessel,” Garrity said. “This community is fortunate to have her among us.”
Hessel, 65, spent decades making a name for herself in the La Crosse community, through both her powerful prose and strength in the light of trials and tragedy, including the loss of her eldest child to leukemia and the return of her own cancer.
“I always say the cancer is too serious not to laugh,” said Hessel, who has stage four breast cancer. “For me, finding humor in everything has been critical throughout my life. ... I always say in an unlucky category of life, I’m really lucky.”
Writing was an early passion for Hessel, who started her writing career at the La Crosse Tribune in 1974, inspired by a quest for truth in the wake of Watergate. During her decade at the paper, she covered government and human interest stories, including many articles about local children battling life-threatening diseases. Years later, she recounted her many interviews in “Bald is Beautiful: Living With Childhood Cancer,” on behalf of the Shining Stars Foundation.
Hessel left the Tribune to focus on freelance writing when her son Matt was diagnosed with leukemia. He died at age 9. Hessel and her husband have ensured his legacy lives on through the Matt Hessel-Mial Creative Writing Contest through the school district of La Crosse and the publication of his short stories, the proceeds from which are donated to the La Crosse Public Education Foundation.
“You have to find a way to do something positive with your energy,” said Hessel, who has also found solace in volunteering with organizations including the St. Clare Health Mission, U.S. Holocaust Museum, La Crosse Storytelling Festival. She offers support to other women with cancer through her writing, encouraging them to do the same.
“She inspires her many readers almost daily with her essays on Facebook about gratitude, family, humorous observations about life and serious political issues,” Freedland said. “Hundreds of people follow her because she brings clarity to issues that seem so incomprehensible.”
Hessel, who has published several books and countless articles, remains a sought after freelance writer due to her empathy, meticulous research and genuine interest in the stories of others. As La Crosse’s first professional personal historian, she has captured the histories of Gundersen Clinic, the Dahl Family, Courtesy Corp. and the city of La Crosse. She has recorded the stories of a concentration camp survivor, member of the resistance in World War II and local activist, June Kjome, 96, whom Hessels calls a personal inspiration.
“(Kjome said) ‘silence is the same as assent.’ That really rattled around in me,” Hessel said.
Hessel has never shied from sharing her voice, particularly in regard to immigration, universal health care and issues of “human decency,” particularly in the current divisive political climate.
“I’m a Jewish woman, and I stand with Muslim women,” Hessel said. “I just speak up and try to have conversations with people who aren’t just like me. I’m a smart alec, I try to be funny, but I’m just trying to make the world better. And man, that’s a challenge these days, but we have to do that. ... We need to support each other, stand together, write letters, make phone calls and try to tell your story.”
Hessel says she has found fulfillment in writing, but her greatest joy is her family.
“The best item on my life’s resume are my kids,” Hessel said. “They’ve shown themselves to be really good human beings.”
Marlis O’Brien was 20 when she took a job as a respiratory therapist at Mayo Clinic Health System, and for the past 28 years she has continued to be an advocate for patients suffering from asthma while facilitating life saving CPR and advanced life support training courses as Training Center Coordinator.
“Asthma that is out of control has a profound impact on the quality of people’s lives, and it is a disease that in many cases is very treatable and controllable,” said O’Brien, a member of the La Crosse Asthma Coalition. “I realized that a little bit of education in the right environment could have a tremendous impact on people.”
O’Brien has helped supply schools in 12 area districts, churches and squad cars with chamber spacers used to deliver asthma treatments and defibrillators. She volunteers at St. Clare Health Mission, providing free respiratory services, serves with the American Lung Association, Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association, Wisconsin Asthma Coalition and is on the board of Horse Sense for Special Riders. O’Brien advocates for her son, Erik, who has a neurotransmitter deficiency and aspires to make the community more inclusive to everyone.
“I would love to see a facility that can meet the needs of those who are different and offers the same options of higher education, recreational, physical, and spiritual support that normal developing people have access to,” O’Brien said.
She dedicates her honor to God, her son, her employer and co-workers and the many people who have helped with Erik’s care.
Elizabeth Kruck knows change takes work, and she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty. After three decades as an educator in Racine, working with students with learning disabilities, Kruch is spending her retirement inspiring and enacting progress in the fields of immigration, conservation, health care reform, social justice, equal pay and voters rights.
“It’s important for women to take an active role in voting and policies because policy decisions affect their lives now and in the future,” Kruck said. “Women who don’t get locked into ideological bubbles and corners can listen and communicate with understanding of different abilities, experiences, thinking styles and information levels and sources of information (which) can help bridge political divides.”
Kruck is a member of La Crosse chapter of the American Association of University Women and League of Women Voters, and mentors through the UW-L Self Sufficiency Program. She uses every project and experience as a chance to learn from others and challenge herself.
“I’m inspired by the many people who work tirelessly for fair and equitable policies that help everybody succeed,” Kruck said. “I’m prompted to speak out with the realization that the things I care about ... don’t just happen. Gains that have been made in the past came about with the hard work and courageous efforts of women and men who came before me. With complacency, these gains are lost and we go backward.”
During her 23 years at Central High School, Sarah Coleman had an impact not just on her special education students but on the entire school. An advocate for diversity education and students of all abilities, Coleman made strides to promote understanding and acceptance across the student body and faculty, organizing events and programs including for Humanity Awareness Week, Diversity Day, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Nonviolence Project and Unlearning Racism groups.
“Sarah has been one of La Crosse’s unsung change makers, working with and through our youth and educators to help prepare them to interact, live and strive in an ever changing multicultural society,” said Thomas Harris, interim director of the UW-L Office of Multicultural Student Services.
“It’s important to learn history — all the history,” Coleman said. “I think (diversity education) makes the students better people when they have knowledge of their own culture and the culture of others. They become aware that they are a part of a much larger world than just La Crosse.”
Coleman also volunteers at St. Clare Health Mission and organizes African Drum Circles at area middle schools. She names her students, daughter, Kalista, and her grandmother-in-law as her inspirations, and she says she is “extremely humbled” to be an Outstanding Woman.
For 25 years Robyn R. Tanke has proven a dedicated, passionate and influential employee of the Gundersen Medical Foundation, where she serves as chief development officer, helping raise millions for health care research.
In her late teens, Tanke was a wife and mother, juggling a full-time job, college and trying to break into a then predominantly male field of work. She studied hard, joined the Association of Fundraising Professionals and sought out both male and female mentors to help her succeed. Among her greatest accomplishments is collaborating to raise $3.5 million through Gundersen’s Steppin’ Out in Pink program.
“We believe strongly that we will only find cures for diseases like breast cancer through research and advocacy,” Tanke said. “Steppin’ Out in Pink brought passionate advocates together to champion for a great cause.”
Championing causes is more than a career for Tanke, who devotes much of her free time to volunteering with the La Crosse Community Theatre and United Fund for the Arts and Humanities along with mentoring students at Hamilton Elementary School. She plans to retire in late 2018 and says being recognized for her commitment and success is “exceptionally meaningful to me.”
“I gave this career everything I had and was happy to do so. I have become a better person having served in this role. ... I hope every young woman, starting out against the odds, finds happiness and success as I have.”
Three Sixty Real Estate Solutions is more than a business for Michelle Wanders — it’s a portal to community revitalization. As co-owner of Three Sixty, Wanders spearheads housing and commercial projects, including the restoration and re purposing of historic downtown buildings and the construction of attractive student housing, while helping secure safe and affordable housing for low-income individuals through her work with the Collaborative to End Homelessness. On behalf of Three Sixty, Wanders sponsors and makes donations to organizations including the Family and Children’s Center, CouleeCap, Boys and Girls Club, and the Salvation Army, where she serves on the advisory board.
“We are truly a community of givers, be it of our time in volunteering or our treasurers in giving,” Wanders said. “I am so proud to be part of this community that has inspired me to look to ways I can contribute more.”
Wanders makes sure to find balance in her busy life by establishing personal priorities, starting with the things that have the greatest impact and letting the little things wait. She hopes to instill perseverance, servitude, and a strong sense of self in her daughters, and stresses that in a world of instant gratification, patience pays off and hard work is the best reward, though being named an Outstanding Woman is a nice bonus.
“You could have tipped me over with a feather,” Wanders says of the honor. “I have been completely humbled by the nomination ... to be in the company of such a great group of women is such an honor.”
When Colleen Dixon’s daughters joined 4-H, Girl Scouts, and softball, she signed on, too, as leader and coach. When their school needed a yearbook editor and a Band Booster president, she raised her hand.
“I felt that I would have a better connection with each of them by being involved in their school and community lives,” Dixon said. “I wanted to be the type of parent that said ‘yes.’”
Dixon rarely turns down an opportunity to serve, lending her time to school functions and fundraisers, co-chairing the Minds in Motion Bike Tour and working with hearing impaired students. She currently works at the UW-L ACCESS Center, helping people with Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy and vision impairment.
“I have learned ... about the invisible disabilities that often go unnoticed but yet have such a devastating effect on students,” Dixon said. “I’ve learned how important it is to treat each person respectfully as an individual as you never know what kinds of issues they may be dealing with.”
Dixon encourages other women to dive in when they find a cause they are excited about.
“No organization turns away a willing and eager volunteer. Figure out what tools you can bring ... or just bring your enthusiasm.”
Of choosing a career in education, Marcie Wycoff-Horn says, “Who wouldn’t want to have the opportunity to empower people, inspire ideas and create change?”
Wycoff-Horn does all three on a daily basis as UW-L’s dean of the School of Education, a position she has held since 2015 after previous positions as professor and director of the School of Education. Wycoff-Horn has taken strides to implement diversity education and global learning through international partnerships, including with sister city Luoyang, China, and assisted with the Grow Our Own Teacher Diversity Program.
“The goal of a better society and world is to embrace the complexities and opportunities that diversity offers. A more equitable society begins with every parent speaking empowering words to their child. It continues with teachers, role models, neighbors, mentors, etc,” said Wycoff-Horn, who herself mentors female students and faculty members and aspiring teachers.
“(As) a mentor I am a leader and a role model who is encouraging others to be confident, aim high, and reach for the stars until their goals are met or surpassed,” Wycoff-Horn said. “In turn, as a mentor I strive for more, and it has pushed me to be an even greater advocate and champion for women of all backgrounds.”
Wycoff-Horn calls her Outstanding Woman honor a validation of the combined efforts of herself, the university and the community.
When Jerilyn Dinsmoor took a job, she didn’t care about the paycheck — she cared about the impact.
“The vast majority of her career was spent working in the non profit community. ... It became a mission for her and that came from the heart,” said her husband, Brad Dinsmoor. “She measured her success based on the outcome of her work.”
Before her death last year, Dinsmoor served in many realms of the arts and faith communities, first as executive director of the Pump House and later for the Western Wisconsin Education Conference, along with selling her art at fairs. She later taught at First Presbyterian and First Congregational United Church of Christ, where she led service trips, and Viterbo University. Her goal was always to “open up students’ eyes to diversity issues and use the lessons to make a positive difference in the world.
“She wanted them to do something about it and not just sit on the sidelines,” Brad said.
For the last three years of her life, Dinsmoor served as executive director for La Crosse Promise, striving to reduce poverty and encourage higher education through housing grants and college scholarships.
“Through her work, passion, and creativity a visual change is occurring in a neighborhood that is proud of its diversity, civic mindedness and proximity to work and play” said Denise Vujnovich, vice president of the La Crosse Promise board. “I see Jerilyn’s smiling face in the window of every La Crosse Promise home.”
Jamie Capatillo made the most of her undergraduate years at UW-L, where she excelled both academically and in her many social justice and cultural awareness pursuits. Capatillo, who served as co-chair of ALANA (Asian, Latina, African, Native American Women), recognized many of her Latina classmates missed communicating in Spanish, enjoying traditional foods and spending time with family, and co-created Mujeres Orgullosas, a social support group for UW-L students, later expanding it into the Latina Outreach Mentoring Program for high school students in Arcadia.
During her work in the Campus Climate office, Capatillo organized social justice workshops and tutored. She helped produce the student documentary “Inclusive Negligence: Helping Educators Address Racial Inequality at UW-L,” and participated in “Awareness Through Performance,” taking to the stage to foster recognition and spark conversation regarding diversity and justice issues affecting colleges nation wide. In 2016, she received the UW-L College of Liberal Studies Recognition of Excellence Award in the undergraduate Ethnic and Racial studies category.
Capatillo currently works as a graduate assistant in the Higher Education and Student Affairs Masters Program at the University of San Francisco, overseeing a literacy skills tutoring program for K-3 students.
Emma Harlan doesn’t wait for opportunities — she finds them. The ambitious Onalaska High School senior reached out the Lugar de Reunion Hispanic community resource center last year, offering to tutor ESL students, and has recruited fellow classmates to do the same.
“I would have never started teaching ESL if I hadn’t searched beyond the bounds of my community for a pocket of need that I felt passionate about,” Harlan said. “... My advice for teens looking to become more involved in their community is to think of a topic you are passionate about, and don’t stop searching for an opportunity to get involved in that area until you find something.”
Harlans ambition and vigor are evident in many aspects of her life. A talented vocalist, harpist and bass player, she volunteers at Life in Harmony, a music program for children with special needs. She tutors in math at her own school, and is a member of Rotary Interact, leading donation drives. Last summer, she traveled to Hungary to work with teens in refugee camps.
“I can’t put into words the impact that volunteering with refugees and immigrants has had on me,” Harlan said. “It has allowed me to see just how connected our world is, and has moved my heart in ways that I can’t explain.”
Harlan, who names her mom as her inspiration, calls receiving the Young Woman of tomorrow award empowering, and knowing she is making a difference makes her want to do “more and more and more.”