What are we THANKFUL for in Marathon County?

Written by Brad Karger


In Marathon County, we live in a special place with many special people. People who live a life of abundance. People who:

  • Express gratitude
  • Give credit
  • Exude joy
  • Embrace change
  • Want others to succeed
  • Continuously learn
  • Set goals and develop life plans
  • Forgive others

Need proof?

Then I invite you to read these thoughts shared by several community leaders — and our own Wisconsin Central Time NEWS Editorial Board — and see what I mean . . .

You can’t help but feel inspired and appreciative of all the great people, places, and projects in Marathon County!

Community Leaders

1.  Mark Craig

Mark Craig
General Manager
Compass Properties

In 2018, I’m grateful for . . .

  • The substantial investment in the YMCA, with the expansion and the partnership with Aspirus Clinics to provide a “Downtown Health / Wellness Campus.” With a $40 million price tag, I believe this will be one of the largest developments in downtown Wausau since the mall was developed in 1982/1983.
  • Two-hour free parking everywhere, every day in downtown Wausau (finally). This simple change will reduce some of the confusion for shoppers and guests visiting our central business district.
  • Reaching an agreement with the City of Wausau to provide property owners with Waivers & Indemnification Agreements so that we can continue to display seasonal decorations over Third Street, along with Festoon Lights and Umbrellas over the 300 Block of Third Street.

In 2019, I look forward to . . .

  • Completion of the River Front Trail and Park project by the City of Wausau, along the Wisconsin River. And the addition of a large multi-family residential complex, assuming the troubled Riverlife Project is resurrected.
  • IRONBULL Xtreme Races being implemented in the Wausau area starting in 2019 showcasing our array of amazing venues. This “game changer” has been envisioned by Bill Bertram and the Parks Foundation. It could have a tremendous impact on the future of our entire area.
  • A positive path forward with the Wausau Center Mall site. Hopefully that will become clear as 2019 unfolds, revealing potential redevelopment(s) in this multi-block key area in our Central Business District.

2.  Keri Anne Connaughty

Keri Anne Connaughty
Human Resources Consultant

In 2018, I’m grateful for . . .

  • My (now) good health — We don’t always appreciate our good health until we become ill.
  • Laughter — It’s so good for the soul. It is such a simple, beautiful thing to feel and hear. Could you imagine the world without it?
  • My loving family — I never knew love like this before. I feel so blessed.
  • Clean water to drink and clean air to breathe — I’d like to see a better worldwide effort to preserve both.
  • Teachers, of all kinds, and walks of life — There is an abundance of knowledge out there waiting for us to consume it! Each encounter we have with people is an opportunity to learn something new.

In 2019, I look forward to . . .

  • Being my best, healthiest self, free of cancer and full of good spirit — I am grateful to be alive and loved and to share my love with others. There is always time for that.

3.  Ben Bliven

Benjamin Bliven
Police Chief
Wausau Police Department

In 2018, I’m grateful for . . .

  • The Wausau area community support for law enforcement has to be #1 on my list for 2018 (and let’s be honest, pretty much every year). In 2018, local law enforcement saw unprecedented support from our community as more than $100,000 was raised to send officers to Washington, DC, for National Police Week in May. We were able to honor the sacrifice made by Jason Weiland as his name was engraved on the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, DC. My gratitude for our community support continues to grow. The Wausau / Marathon County community is second to none.
  • The dedication of our local police officers. There are countless examples to provide here. Our patrol and detective bureaus have worked around the clock on two homicide cases in 2018. Wausau East SRO Nick Stetzer developed and implemented our therapy dog program, which has already grown within our department and into other local businesses/agencies. Officer Dave Bertram saved the life of an infant with a quick response to a medical call and great execution of CPR. Other officers saved the life of a woman who was threatening to jump from the Landmark building by pulling her from the ledge. Still other officers saved the life of a suicidal man who fell into the cold river this past April. Officer Jordan Gaiche received a Legislative Citation from representative John Spiros for raising money to replace a broken lift chair for a local disabled man. Captain Todd Baeten and Officer Luis Lopes-Serrao continue to work diligently on the Wausau PD social media pages to engage our community. Officer Eric Lemirand has built strong relationships at Adaptive Communities. Officer Ben Price has spent many hours working with Special Olympics. Many of our staff participate in the Bigs in Blue program with Big Brothers Big Sisters. Officer Sarah D’Acquisto has worked extensively sharing information about human trafficking. Chief Hardel gave us 38 years of dedicated service, which came to an end in February. I could go on and on . . .
  • Amy Zondlo. Amy has been the biggest supporter of our K9 program. She has donated photo shoots for all local K9s. She has raised money for the K9 program in a multitude of events. In addition, she spent many hours seeking donations and putting together a local police K9 calendar that is now being sold to raise even more money for our local K9 programs. She’s amazing.

In 2019, I look forward to . . .

  • The best part about being a police officer is the opportunity we are given every day we come to work to make a positive impact in the lives of others in our community. People call us on their worst days, and we are here ready to serve. I can’t wait to see how our local police officers positively impact our community in 2019.
  • The Wausau PD Chaplain program has grown from 1 to 8 Chaplains. I’m excited to see the impact these men and women make within our department and out in the community.
  • Honestly, #3 on my list might be the Brewers’ 2019 baseball season!

4.  Jane Graham Jennings

Jane Graham Jennings
Executive Director
The Women’s Community, Inc.

In 2018, I’m grateful for . . .

  • Working in such a generous and compassionate community.
  • Being part of an amazing and dedicated team, who work tirelessly to ensure the voices of the voiceless are represented.
  • Having so many collaborative partners, who realize that we are stronger together and what benefits one, benefits us all.

In 2019, I look forward to . . .

  • The potential for new beginnings (I always look forward to that).
  • Seeing the work we are planning to do with the Wausau’s university campus around sexual assault. With the extension becoming part of the UW-Stevens Point system, they have more resources to specifically address sexual assault on campus and have asked us to partner with them and to have an advocate on campus for scheduled hours.
  • Learning what emerging needs victims have that we are not addressing and finding ways to address those needs.
  • Discovering new allies and finding people who understand intimate partner violence and sexual assault at a deeper level, so we can support victims, instead of blaming them.

5.  Michael Loy

Michael Loy
North Central Health Care

In 2018, I’m grateful for . . .

  • My family. They mean everything to me, especially my wife Emily.
  • The generosity of the $3.4 million raised from the community for the new Aquatic Therapy Pool.
  • The County Board’s support of $70 million to renovate the North Central Health Care campus and the impact we get to have on this community for the long-term because of this investment.

In 2019, I look forward to . . .

  • Watching my children continue to grow and learn.
  • Breaking ground on Phase 1 of the campus renovations, especially the Aquatic Therapy Pool. 

6.  Ann Herda-Rapp

Ann Herda-Rapp
Campus Executive / Professor of Sociology
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point at Wausau

In 2018, I’m grateful for . . .

  • The quality of life here — When my spouse and I moved here 20 years ago, we pinched ourselves that we lived here and didn’t want word to get out to others (mostly Illinois residents!) about how great it was for fear they would spoil it; all these years later, we still marvel at the resources and amenities that have only become more abundant since then.
  • The UW-Stevens Point at Wausau (formerly UWMC) faculty and staff — They are entirely committed to supporting students and providing an important access point for a high-quality (yet affordable) university education in Wisconsin. I respect and admire all that they do for students.
  • Dogs — For giving love freely, without judgement or expectation, and reminding us to be in the moment.

In 2019, I look forward to . . .

  • A year for the UW-Stevens Point at Wausau campus to be more — To listen to and then begin to meet the educational needs of the community in ways we couldn’t before. It’s an opportunity and we intend to take advantage of that opportunity.

7.  Mike Beck

Mike Beck
U.S. Workstories

In 2018, I’m grateful for . . .

  • Leaders who are humble and recognize that their success depends on others.
  • The chance to visit our wonderful Wisconsin parks with family.
  • Dogs. They are such a loyal, calming influence.

In 2019, I look forward to . . .

  • New, exciting stages for my adult children.
  • The opportunity to meet new people and learn their stories.
  • Continued efforts by many people to make this an even better place to live.

8.  Kathy Kelsey Foley

Kathy Kelsey Foley
Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum

In 2018, I’m grateful for . . .

  • My Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum work . . . I’m energized by what I do, the people with whom I’m privileged to work, and visitor responses to exhibitions and artworks. 
  • The unanticipated responses by Woodson Art Museum visitors . . . the ways in which exhibitions motivate and impact visitors.The World According to Federico Uribe proved this point with each visitor — 27,891 times! 
  • The ongoing and varied ways Birds in Art resonates, not only in north central Wisconsin, but also throughout the extended annual tours of the exhibition and the catalogue orders received from around the world.

In 2019, I look forward to . . .

  • Watching our grandson grow and develop during the year ahead and beyond. I became a grandmother on Valentine’s Day 2018 — how sweet is that?! The delight and joy my husband Ernie and I derive from Landon is immeasurable.

9.  David Eckmann

David Eckmann
Wausau Region Chamber of Commerce

In 2018, I’m grateful for . . .

  • The health and well-being of my family.
  • Our business and industry stakeholders for taking an interest in both time and money to help our community develop a plan of action that will foster business expansion and help to identify approaches to attract and retain talent.
  • Having the privilege to work with a team of dedicated professionals and have a very supportive and engaged Board of Directors.

In 2019, I look forward to . . .

  • Establishing collaborative efforts where diverse community stakeholders can agree upon a collective vision for our future.
  • Setting a course of action that makes Marathon County a destination to live, work, and recreate.

Our Editorial Board

1. Brad Karger

Brad Karger
Marathon County Administrator

 In 2018, I’m grateful for . . .

  • My family — I’m blessed with a family who loves and supports me. Family isn’t always about DNA. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs. The ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what. 
  • My community — Marathon County is a unique place that supports a balance of family and career life. We offer a broad variety of opportunities that support an active lifestyle, including the arts, excellent schools, caring people, fantastic parks and events, terrific public infrastructure (like roads, libraries, and airports), businesses that define themselves in terms of social responsibility as much as economic activity, selfless public servants, and volunteers who give of their time and talents to help others. 
  • My relationship with the Hmong community leaders — When you have a job that imparts some social status, a lot of people want to be a friend. There are a number of different levels of friendship. Many are casual friends that share interests and activities. The Hmong community leaders and I are special friends; friends I can go to for anything and I know that they will always be on my side, through thick and thin.

In 2019, I look forward to . . .

  • Developing a new generation of leaders in County Government — I’m a good leadership coach, and I enjoy working directly with emerging leaders. With the creation of a new position in our office — Organizational Excellence Program Manager — I expect to extend my reach and promote sharing of expertise and a free flow of learning across the entire County organization and to build a culture in which mistakes are viewed as opportunities for learning.

2. Lance Leonhard


Lance Leonard - Marathon County Deputy Administrator
Lance Leonhard
Marathon County Deputy Administrator

In 2018, I’m grateful for . . .

  • My work— Each day, I have the opportunity work with Marathon County’s other 700 employees to improve the lives of every one of our residents. Whether it’s a dispatcher making sure someone in need gets the emergency service required, a highway worker keeping our roadways clear and safe during a severe storm, or a public health nurse working with an at-risk new mother to ensure a family has the resources it needs, our staff immensely impact the lives of our residents and visitors every day. Doing what I can to help them do the amazing work they do is a gift. I couldn’t ask for a more fulfilling job. 
  • My family— To say that I am blessed with an amazing family is an understatement. I’m still working on getting concrete proof, but I’m pretty confident that my wife is some sort of superhero. She coordinates the non-stop schedules of our two kids, supports me pursuing a job that requires an immense amount of time away from home for meetings and other obligations and a second job teaching part-time at UW-Stevens Point at Wausau, and she still manages to find a way to make sure we all have quality time together as a family. Quite simply, I’m a lucky guy. 
  • My community— Every day, we are confronted with news stories that might serve to challenge our underlying belief that people are, at their core, kind. It’s hard not to be shaken by what we see. But, as I look around our community, my faith is strengthened. Our community is quick to lend a hand to those in need; we celebrate the things that make each of us unique because we know that it’s that diversity that makes us strong; and we work hand-in-hand to do all we can to make each day better than the last. I can’t think of a place I’d rather call home. Apart from the long winters, of course . . . I could really use more 75-degree, sunny days to get my golf game under control.

In 2019, I look forward to . . .

  • My opportunities to learn and grow. At work, I’m excited as we begin recruiting for our new Organizational Excellence Program Manager, aimed at further developing the County’s culture of innovation and continuous improvement. At home, I can’t wait to see all the new “firsts” that each of my kids will have in 2019 (my daughter is just about ready to read, and this spring I’m going to take my son on the golf course to play 9 holes). In my community, I’m excited to see several of the big local projects take shape — the YMCA/Aspirus Downtown, the Warm-Water Therapy Pool and the rest of the renovation at the Marathon County North Central Health Care campus, and the continued development of our downtown. The coming year is certainly going to be exciting!

3. Chad Dally

Chad Dally - MCPL - Library Specialist
Chad Dally
Library Specialist
Marathon County Public Library

In 2018, I’m grateful for . . .

  • That we’ve made it through 10 months of the year (as of this writing) and my wife, family and friends have all stayed healthy without major accidents or illnesses. Well, my wife did break her wrist, which was a major inconvenience, but relatively speaking . . . And, we’ve forgiven our dog for the role he played in the incident.
  • I work with a diverse, fun, and creative bunch of people at the Marathon County Public Library who are dedicated to their jobs and to serving the public. Also, August 2018 marked 6 years I’ve worked for MCPL — the longest I’ve held any job!
  • The chance to play (other people’s) music and share (other people’s) writing through volunteering as a DJ at the UW-Stevens Point campus radio station, WWSP. 

In 2019, I look forward to . . .

  • Making it a priority to spend more time outdoors in a recreational way — trying cross-country skiing, hiking, camping, swimming, etc. (If I write it down in this newsletter, that means I have to hold myself to it!)
  • Increasing the number of organizers involved in the Central Wisconsin Book Festival and seeing what our group can come up with to make 2019 even better than 2018!​
  • Coming up with a new batch of adult programming ideas for MCPL Wausau with my co-worker, Julie Kinney, that our community will (hopefully) enjoy.

4. Katie Rosenberg

Katie Rosenberg
Marathon County Board Supervisor
District #1

In 2018, I’m grateful for . . .

  • My Peeps — My husband is the real MVP. As a teacher, he is a public servant too and knows the time and heart it takes to get the job done right. I am so lucky to share this life with him. I am forever grateful to my parents, who instilled in me the importance of civic engagement, living authentically, and being open to the world. I am thankful for the group of firecrackers I call my friends, to the people who have mentored me, and the people who have challenged me.
  • Public Employees — At first, I was just going to mention the Highway Department because it’s on my mind after my latest ride-along with Russ Graveen and snowplowing season is coming up! But then I thought about the jail tour and ride-along I took with Deputy Dan D’Aquisto last year; and the long conversation I had with Judge Moran about the opioid crisis; and the nurses, CNAs, and staff taking care of our loved ones at Mount View Care Center and North Central Health Care; and my amazing neighbor Kathy Kainz who recently retired from the County Clerk’s Office after 40 years, and I realized that I am really grateful for all of the work these people do making a place like Marathon County a great place to live.
  • The Present — Life is BUSY. It’s easy to race around to meetings and events and obligations without ever taking one second to think about how amazing and incredible it is to be here right now. There’s a picture of planet Earth taken by Voyager 1 in the ’90s. You can’t really even see Earth, but you can see the massiveness of space and a few rays of sun. Astronomer Carl Sagan’s remarks on that picture puts everything into astonishing perspective for me:

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”

Earth (in circle) as seen by Voyager 1. (Photo courtesy of NASA/JPL.)

In 2019, I look forward to . . .

  • NCHC Renovations — I ran for office because I wanted to be at the table when the County talked about the future of North Central Health Care. It’s an important institution for Marathon County and particularly for District 1. I’m pleased with the vision Michael Loy, the board, and the community were able to articulate for NCHC, and I’m even more excited to see how the renovations improve the lives of people in our community.
  • Public Engagement — When I was looking at the election results from Tuesday, one thing caught my eye: District 1 had 90% voter turnout. That’s remarkable! I’m lucky to live in a place that values community engagement. In 2019, there will be more important issues to discuss, decisions to be made, and votes to cast. I’m glad I can count on my neighbors to get involved.

5.  Karyn Powers

Karyn Powers
Recreation Superintendent
Wausau / Marathon County Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Department

 In 2018, I’m grateful for . . .

  • My loved ones and friends.
  • The beauty of the natural world around us.
  • Four-footed, tail thumping fur-buddies.

In 2019, I look forward to . . .

  • Making more memories with all of the above.

6.  Jessica Meadows

Jessica Meadows
Communications & Marketing Manager
North Central Health Care

In 2018, I’m grateful for . . .

  • My loving, supportive family, who provide a rock-solid foundation for my motivation, strength, and hopefulness for the future. With each new turn comes an adventure that shapes my decisions and provides clarity to what is really important in life.

In 2019, I look forward to . . .

  • Sharing new experiences with them and seeing more of the U.S. — from giant redwoods to warm, sandy beaches.

7.  Dr. Kelly Kapitz

Dr. Kelly Kapitz
Director of Special Education
Marathon County Special Education Department

 In 2018, I’m grateful for . . .

  • A happy, healthy family.

  • So many wonderful dedicated colleagues championing the support of kids with disabilities.
  • Living in such a beautiful part of the state.

In 2019, I look forward to . . .

  • The safe return of my nephew, who will have completed his first tour in Afghanistan.
  • A more civil, positive political environment.
  • Another year of important, meaningful work in our schools.

8.  Jenna Flynn

Jenna Flynn
Public Health Educator
Marathon County Health Department
Tobacco Control Coordinator
Central Wisconsin Tobacco Free Coalition

In 2018, I’m grateful for . . .

  • My position as a Public Health Educator for Marathon County Health Department. I recently hit my 1-year anniversary. That made me reflect on how thankful I am for the opportunity to work in a field that I am passionate about close to home. As a young professional, job hunting and interviewing is a really trying time. I know many out there are nodding their heads. It is such a rewarding feeling when you are finally selected for a position that you’ve imagined for a long time and that you just know is going to be a great fit.   
  • My CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) summer farm share. I was thankful to have the opportunity to sign up for my first farm share through Cattail Organics this past summer. I loved getting fresh vegetables every other week — from purple peppers and microgreens to dragon tongue beans. It definitely encouraged our family to be adventurous with our cooking! It was all the better knowing that we were supporting a local farm in Athens.
  • Our marriage on August 11, 2018! I was dating the same man for 9 years. It was so much fun to finally celebrate our love with our best friends and family. (Cheesy, I know.)

In 2019, I look forward to . . .

  • Naturally, after the wedding comes the honeymoon. I’m looking forward to a trip to Ireland in the spring.
  • Fixing up our house (slowly, but surely).
  • Continued learning in my current position as a health educator, leadership opportunities, and continuing to build relationships with the community and affecting change in a meaningful and positive way.

9.  Kaitlyn Bernarde

Kaitlyn Bernarde
4-H Program Coordinator
University of Wisconsin Extension–Cooperative Extension

In 2018, I’m grateful for . . .

  • My close, happy, and healthy family — husband, parents, grandparents, nieces, and nephews.
  • The amazing collection of people, places, and events celebrating local triumphs and gathering in times of need.
  • My job, where I get to work with awesome colleagues, sharing information to grow the next generation of leaders.

In 2019, I look forward to . . .

  • Buying a house!

*  *  *

Sometimes we’re prone to focus too much on deficits . . .

We all would be well served to appreciate what we have
before time makes us appreciate what we had.

To live life to the fullest, we need to focus more on people and special relationships and less on stuff that will eventually lose its meaning.

Please take a few minutes during this season of Thanksgiving to view this video on Marathon County and see if you are reminded of (and comforted by) the special landscape and the special people that make Marathon County the GREAT place that we call home.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Brad Karger - Marathon County AdministratorBrad Karger

Marathon County Administrator

In his Administrator role, Brad Karger leads an organization with 700+ employees and an annual budget of more than $162 million. Brad has been in leadership positions with Marathon County for the past 30 years. He is known statewide for generating innovative ideas and solutions to problems, openness and transparency, and a commitment to community service that extends well beyond the normal workday.  Email Brad Karger.

Image credit:
Cornucopia image by Jill111 via Pixabay.

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