Board of Directors, Key Volunteers, Staff & Consultants

Stephen Smiley, President, [email protected]

Stephen has a passion for helping Racine become a great place to live. As a business consultant for Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership (WMEP), Stephen has helped a variety of businesses grow in southeast WI. With 25 years experience in manufacturing organizations ranging from large corporations to start-up entities, he has served as a leader in operations, engineering and administration. Stephen’s volunteerism included serving as Co-Chair for the Kids Cove Playground, and on the YMCA, Big Brother Big Sisters, Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church boards of directors. Stephen is excited to use his business skills and volunteer experience to help Wild Root Market become an important  part of the Racine community, providing an alternative market experience for local people who value fresh, locally grown and organic food as well as  attracting other like-minded people to live here

Lois Braun, Vice President, Marketing & Communications Chair, [email protected]

Lois is a Racine native, born and raised. After spending time in Kenosha for college and an internship, Lois was eager to reinvest time in Racine. Lois was motivated to join the Wild Root Market Board because she feels strongly that Racine needs a resource to provide food that is responsibly grown and education on healthy eating. With a B.S. in Marketing and an Associates in Graphic Design, Lois is excited to get the word out about Wild Root Market and help it grow.

Mark Gesner, Director, Board Development Chair, [email protected]

Mark is excited to use his professional experience in education, hospitality management, and nonprofit leadership to help bring the co-op dream to life in Racine. He currently serves as Cardinal Stritch University's Executive Director of The Stritch Hub for Innovation and Community Engaged Learning. Mark is also a faculty member at Stritch, and previously was the Director of Community Development at UW-Parkside.  Before his career in higher education, Mark oversaw programs and operations on the local, regional, and national level for Hostelling International -- USA, a nonprofit organization supporting cross-cultural understanding and educational travel.  Mark, who moved to Racine in 2004 with his wife and daughter, claims to have the co-op spirit in his genes with a co-op lineage going back generations, including a great uncle who was a food co-op manager in New York City over 50 years ago.

Anita Cruise, Director, Outreach & Inclusion Chair, Registered Agent, [email protected]

Having lived in the Racine area for 25 years, Anita has grown to love the community and believe in the benefit of having a cooperative market that offers healthy, locally-sourced food to friends and neighbors. An estate planning attorney and financial advisor, Anita has served on several nonprofit boards in the past and is currently on the board of the Gateway Technical College Foundation and Professional Women’s Network for Service. She is a volunteer tutor for the United Way of Racine County Schools of Hope and a volunteer tax preparer with the VITA program. She has served as a staff attorney for Legal Action of Wisconsin, Inc., Kids Matter, Inc. and Women’s Resource Center. Anita has been married for 32 years and has three children. Both Anita and her husband Keith are active in their church where they work to strengthen couples and young families.

Betsy Falk, Director, [email protected]

Betsy Falk has had a sort of “What do you want to do when you grow up” career. After an Associate Degree in Accounting from Gateway Technical College, she went on to earn her Bachelor’s from the University of Wisconsin Platteville, and an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University. During her career she has worked in education teaching accounting, economics and various software programs at Gateway Technical College, MATC, UW Milwaukee, and as a Corporate Trainer for several companies. Betsy is currently teaching accounting and economics at Cardinal Stritch University. The majority of her career was spent in the accounting area which included working as an Accounting Manager for a software company, as a partner in a business serving small and medium sized firms providing their accounting, tax and pension plans management. Saving the best for last, Betsy worked as an economist for the State of Wisconsin providing demographic, employment, and educational information for businesses and governments in the seven counties of southeastern Wisconsin. These various industries have given her a diverse understanding of people and industries, and the issues they face.

Betsy believes that the Wild Root Market is a great opportunity for the Racine area. She is excited about having a place to shop for natural local foods every day, a place to learn about where your food comes from, a place that decreases our carbon footprint, and a place to help our local producers will only add to our community. 

Natalie Chulew, Director, [email protected]

Natalie Chulew is passionate about issues relating to healthy communities and a livable, sustainable planet. She believes that food co-ops are an excellent way to bring people together around healthy food, support local farmers/producers, educate about delicious natural foods, and build our local economy. She hopes that the Wild Root Market could help make Racine a more vibrant, resilient community.
In her 20's, Natalie worked at the Mifflin St. Co-op in Madison where she was actively involved in all aspects of running the store. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and later earned a masters degree in education.  For thirty years she taught elementary school and is currently retired.  She volunteers at River Bend Nature Center leading field trips for school groups and tutors students with Schools of Hope at Julian Thomas School.  She’s involved with the Sierra Club, the Clean Power Coalition, Big Sisters of Greater Racine, and the Racine Urban Garden Network. 
Natalie is a founding member of the Wild Root Market and worked on the Owner Loan Campaign.  She’s grateful for the efforts of the many volunteers who have worked hard to try to make the Wild Root Market dream a reality in Racine.

Jeff Wilkins, Secretary, Ownership Chair, [email protected]

As a long-term resident and dedicated educator, Jeff Wilkins is committed to Wild Root’s mission to improve the quality of life in the greater Racine community. He brings to the board over 25 years of experience as a Racine Unified school counselor focusing on improving the lives of his students and their families. As a former governing board member of the Wisconsin School Counselor Association, Jeff brought innovative ideas to improve the school counseling profession. He also served on the Leadership Racine Alumni Board, and as a Quality Advisor and Computer Systems Manager in the Air National Guard. With an entrepreneurial spirit with a growth mindset, Jeff is passionate about urban gardening and community development through building partnerships with local businesses and non-profit organizations. A self-described foodie, one of his favorite childhood memories was picking fresh tomatoes from his family’s garden. He remembers helping his parents can them for home-made soups and juices. Today, Jeff enjoys cooking and grilling for his wife and two sons. His hope is that current and future Wild Root owners experience the quality of fresh, nutritious food in a welcoming, community-building environment. 

 Gloria Randall-Hewitt, Past President, Past Finance Chair, [email protected]

Serving on the Finance Committee for Wild Root Market allows Gloria to use her professional skills and financial expertise for a cause that is very important to her. She is presently employed as the Vice President of Finance/CFO at Active USA and Active Canada, transportation companies headquartered in Pleasant Prairie, WI. Gloria is looking forward to Wild Root Market’s partnerships within our community to empower people to live healthier lives. She and her husband, also an active volunteer with the co-op, have been residents of Racine for nearly twenty years and are excited at the prospect of having a food co-op in Racine providing healthy and local foods, while supporting the community with good jobs. Gloria has a BA in Business and an MBA from Loyola University of Chicago. 


Key Volunteers & Consultants

Marcia Buhler, Capital Campaign Chair, [email protected]

Marcia served on the Wild Root Market Board from 2012 to 2015. She is a former small business owner and corporate training and marketing professional who most recently held various management positions in the Marketing and Training departments at Northwestern Mutual in Milwaukee where she also served as a certified coach for new field representatives. Marcia earned her B.A. and M.A. degrees in communication from Marquette University. With a passion for healthy eating and cooking, Marcia became involved with Wild Root Market to strengthen our local agricultural community and to increase access to fresh, local and organic foods for everybody in Racine. 

Jacqueline Hannah, Assistant Director, Food Co-op Initiative,

Jacqueline joined Food Co-op Initiative in March of 2015 to fulfill her passion for new food co-op development. Before joining FCI, Jacqueline spent over 25 years in retail management for independent local businesses. She served as the general manager of Common Ground Food Co-op in Urbana, Illinois for 9 years. During her time with Common Ground Food Co-op, Jacqueline led the co-op through two expansions and the founding of their Food For All economic access program, while being the fastest growing retail food co-op in the nation from 2008-2013.

In 2010 Jacqueline was named one of the “40 Under 40” business people of excellence by Central Illinois Business Magazine. She was awarded the Innovation Award for Economic Development Impact in 2011 for her work with Common Ground Food Co-op Cooperative and received CEO of the Year award from the Illinois Cooperative Council in 2014. 

Katie Novak, Green Top Grocery,

Katie’s interest in local food stems from years living in Colorado when her sister and brother-in-law recruited her to assist them in opening a non-profit restaurant called SAME (So All May Eat) Café where customers are provided a healthy, organic meal regardless of their ability to pay. Katie continues to hold an “advisory” Board position with SAME Café and served as the Outreach Coordinator for Green Top grocery from April 2013 to July 2017. Katie grew Ownership (with the help of an army) from just over 100 Owners in April 2013 to over 1,600 when she left Green Top to start her own co-op consulting business. She chaired Green Top’s Owner Loan Campaign which raised over $1,450,000 in loans, a national record! She is active in the Bloomington-Normal, IL community, served on the board of the local YMCA and serves on the board of Homes of Hope, a local non-profit that provides quality housing to adults with developmental disabilities. She’s a native of Central Illinois and is excited to be part of the cooperative movement.


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