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Vernon Economic Development Association welcomes new board members

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VEDA logo

VEDA logo

I want to introduce you to five dynamic women who have joined the Vernon Economic Development Association (VEDA) Board of Directors. First to join of the five is Jenny Seiler from Viroqua who has worked with nonprofit organizations in different capacities, from office management in a conservation organization to founding a collective for a preschool program.

“Throughout my career I have focused on building and serving communities so that they can work together to address shared needs,” she said, adding that “I am particularly good at talking people through difficult situations, asking challenging questions, finding patterns, and fleshing out roadmaps for organizations to reach their goals and expand their impact.”

With a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ecology from the University of Texas at Austin and a Certificate in Conflict Management from University of California Davis Extension as a base, Jenny also has skills as a graphic designer and illustrator. “I am inspired by the hard work that people in this region put in to building farms, businesses and organizations,” she said. “I believe deeply in valuing community resilience, and I think VEDA has done great work to expand the capacity of our region. I am excited to put my skills to use in continuing that work.”

Another new VEDA Board member is Hetti Brown from La Crosse who is Executive Director of Couleecap, Inc., a Community Action Program in Western Wisconsin. Hetti brings over 12 years of experience in executive leadership including strategic planning, fiscal oversight and governance. A “passionate advocate for creating a community where every person can thrive and succeed,” she oversees more than 20 programs and 50 federal, state, and private grants to address the causes and conditions of poverty.

She also serves as vice chair of the Wisconsin Community Action Program and vice chair of the La Crosse Area Family Collaborative, on the Scenic Bluffs Community Health Center Board of Directors and various other community committees. Before joining Couleecap, Hetti held leadership roles in Delaware state government, a national nonprofit organization, and the private sector pharmaceutical industry.

She sees small businesses as “the backbone of rural prosperity. They provide the most jobs in the county, invest socially and economically at the local level, and help to create the unique sense of community that residents crave,” she said. “But a strong small business economy does not just happen by chance. Entrepreneurs benefit from training, technical assistance, mentorship and access to resources. Whether they are starting out or ready to expand, VEDA is there to help them be successful.” Hetti is on VEDA’s board because she believes in its mission and “the opportunity the organization has to further the small business economy throughout Vernon County.”

Our third new board member is Kathleen Crittenden of rural Viroqua. After earning her Ph.D. in Sociology from Purdue University, she spent her entire professional career as a faculty member at the University of Illinois at Chicago, serving as Director of Graduate Studies, earning teaching awards, and serving as president of the Midwest Sociological Society. She retired as Professor of Sociology in 2000 but continues to be active in research and publication.

After retiring, in pursuit of a more healthy and sustainable life, she and her husband Kelvin Rodolfo built a zero-energy home on land in Vernon County. After completing a Permaculture Design Course from Midwest Permaculture, they’ve been “learning as we go to develop a permaculture homestead,” she said.

Kathleen’s area activities have included being involved with Fifth Season Cooperative, a board member of Valley Stewardship Network and a grower and board member with its Food and Farm gleaning project, Small Family Farm CSA and the American Hazelnut Company. She also serves on the Viroqua Township Zoning Committee.

“I agree with VEDA that agriculture and food are the engines to develop the local economy, and have watched VEDA’s efforts and accomplishments in nurturing this development. I want to do anything I can to help,” she said of her position on VEDA’s Board.

Staci Pieper of Ontario is our fourth new VEDA Board member. Born and raised in the Rockton area, she earned a Civil Engineering Degree at UW-Platteville in addition to a Master’s in Business Administration and a Masters of Engineering, Sustainable Systems Engineering. She worked in the Eau Claire area for about six years as a highway construction project engineer before moving back to the Kickapoo Valley. Currently a project manager at Dairyland Power Cooperative, she works on projects in the power plants, on substation construction, remodeling and construction of new buildings.

Staci has owned the nine-room Driftwood Inn motel in Ontario since 2008 and enjoys telling her tourist customers about “all of the great things there are to do in the area.” As a small business owner, “I understand what is needed for small businesses to survive and thrive in our area,” she said. “For several years, I was a board member of the Vernon County Tourism Council which provided educational programming for local business owners and procured advertising in various media sources for the county.”

Her interest in serving on the VEDA Board is “to help our area move forward. I believe that we all do better when we work together and feel like this is a way that I can help the area do better. I also think that being on the Board is a great opportunity to learn even more about the Driftless Area and what it has to offer to people that are interested in doing business here.”

The newest member of our Board is Karen Innis of rural Viroqua. Having moved from California to Viroqua in 1991, she has been connecting with and making a difference within our community ever since. With a Master of Arts in Sculpture from California State University, she has produced and exhibited her artwork and taught art in schools and studios in California and Wisconsin, including Viroqua Area Schools, the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, and Madison-based Very Special Arts Wisconsin where she planned and implemented accessible art programs around the state.

Working with the Viroqua Partners, she received the Wisconsin Downtown Action Council “Volunteer of the Year” Award in 1995 and directed the creation of three public murals in Viroqua. Karen has served on numerous boards including that of The Associates to Restore the Temple Theatre, Ltd. (ARTT), Couleecap, Viroqua Fine Arts Association, and the Ark Center for the Arts (The Commons).

From 2001 to 2015, she was a member of the Marketing Department at Organic Valley where she built and led the Trade Show and Events Department, managing public events and educational farm tours. Since “retiring” in 2015, she now enjoys being a licensed real estate agent and owner/operator of Front Porch Framing, a custom picture framing service at the Viroqua Public Market.

“Deeply interested in the process of human connection through participation,” Karen is proud to be a VEDA board member. “It’s important for me to contribute to memorable and meaningful experiences in my community,” she said, adding “VEDA is a proven organization with solid leadership and a vision that can grow and maximize individual expertise.”

We appreciate the service of these women and are excited to be working with them on our Board of Directors. For more information on VEDA, visit www.veda-wi.org or contact Sue Noble at 608-638-8332 or at snoble@veda-wi.org.

Kathy Neidert is a member of the Vernon Economic Development Association (VEDA) Board of Directors.

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