Our Board

We are honored and privileged to have the following community leaders on our Mississippi Valley Conservancy Board of Directors.

Rob Tyser

President
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Rob was a member of the biology department at UW-La Crosse and retired from that position in 2015. He is a longtime member of the Conservancy and has been monitoring bird populations in the Conservancy’s New Amsterdam grasslands since 2009.

Some of Rob’s fondest memories are of his childhood years in southeastern Nebraska, where he spent much time on his grandparent’s small farm developing a life-long interest in the outdoors and nature. His hobbies include bird watching, biking on local county roads, hiking and car camping with family and friends, backpacking, and a never-ending quest to discover the perfect golf swing.

Sue Dillenbeck

Vice President
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Sue Dillenbeck has lived in La Crosse most of her life and has never lost her appreciation for the natural beauty of the Coulee Region. She and her husband Jim raised four children here and the outdoors—hiking, snow shoeing, cross country skiing, fishing and boating—remain a big part of their lives.  

Sue has served on the boards of the YWCA, Riverfront Foundation, The Women’s Fund of Greater La Crosse, Coulee Children’s Center, Valley View Rotary, Rotary Works Foundation and the Viterbo University Advisory Board. She has worked at Robertson Ryan & Associates as a commercial account manager in property and casualty insurance for a long, long time.  

While her nonprofit work has until now focused on social services, the well-being of this community on every level is important to her, and she looks forward to serving on the Mississippi Valley Conservancy board.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 

Roy Campbell

Treasurer
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Roy Campbell has lived primarily in La Crosse since 1956. He graduated from UW-Eau Claire with an accounting major and received an MBA from the University of Minnesota. He was a CPA and also owned a software business. He owns several hundred acres of mostly woodland in La Crosse County. 

Some activities Roy enjoys in his leisure time are biking, hunting, hiking and snowshoeing.

Bob Fisher, Secretary

Bob Fisher

Secretary
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Bob is honored to be serving on the board again after resting out for a couple years.  He brings a long career in natural resource and land-use planning to the table.

He has worked as a forester, wildlife manager, land appraiser and land use planner, with forays into outdoor recreation and transportation planning. Bob remains a strong believer in all manner of conservation of resources, and is active in several state-wide rail passenger advocacy organizations. He hopes someday to see fewer single occupancy cars on seemingly ever more and wider roads and more people happily riding fast passenger trains.

He has his 33 acres of woodland and savanna in a conservation easement with the Conservancy, and is developing a small oak savanna eco-type on the property. Bob says, “as an old forester, it took me several years to finally learn it’s OK not to plant trees on every inch of land and I’ve become a prairie advocate."

 

Allan Beatty, board member

Allan Beatty

Board member
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Allan earned his BA and JD degrees from UW-Madison. He worked as the Assistant State Public Defender from 1987 until he retired in 2015. Allan continues to take criminal defense cases if needed.

Allan is married to Michael Ross, a physician's assistant at Gundersen Health System in La Crosse and they have three children.

Allan has lived in La Crosse since 2004. He previously resided in Sparta.

In his free time, Allan enjoys playing the harp, gardening, cooking and cycling. He sits the Chamber Chorale Board and 1st Congregation UCC committee.

 
 
 
Andrea Benco, board member

Andrea Benco

Board member
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Andrea Benco grew up in the Midwest and is happy to now call Wisconsin home. A Packer fan from birth, living in the green-and-gold state is a dream come true. After acquiring a degree in physics in the Rocky Mountains, she went to the east coast in pursuit of pure knowledge through research, only to find the down-and-dirty job of grant-grubbing and academic politicking distasteful. Escaping after five years, her next adventure was in the deep south. Landing a job as a naturalist with the Arkansas State Park system, a system focused primarily on environmental education and recreation, she realized her true purpose was connecting people with the environment around them and preserving natural areas for folks to experience and explore. 

Five years of southern heat and humidity were enough, and she migrated to Wisconsin just in time to volunteer for Mississippi Valley Conservancy in its earliest years. She has volunteered with the Conservancy in various capacities ever since. Having worked as a naturalist for many years, first at Hixon Forest Nature Center and later the Wisconsin DNR, she has recently retired from state employment to spend more time taking care of family. She is now part of the Kroner's Hardware team, where she delights in solving problems and fixing things.

In her spare time, she enjoys camping, bicycling, hiking and reading.
Gretchen Benjamin, Board member

Gretchen Benjamin

Board member
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Gretchen Benjamin grew up in Winona, Minnesota on the banks of the Mississippi River. She loved spending time on the river as a kid especially when she could go out on her neighbor’s houseboat to the “islands”. Her love and passion for the outdoors drove her to pursue a career that allowed her to protect what was important to her. She graduated from the University of Montana with a degree in natural resource management in 1982. Her first professional jobs were in Yellowstone and Voyageur National Parks as a seasonal park naturalist, but the desire to work year around and have a permanent job led her to a career with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. She spent almost 25 years working for the WDNR on the Mississippi River before leaving to work for The Nature Conservancy, also on the Mississippi River. Her love for the Mississippi River was amplified as she spent more and more time on the river through what is now 30 + year career.  

As a founding board member, she considers the support she provided to Mississippi Valley Conservancy to be one of her major life achievements for the beautiful landscape that surrounds this magnificent river. She is proud to be back on the board after a six-year absence. She lives in La Crosse and has a grown son. 

Gretchen's special interests are aquatic plants and their ecology, scuba diving (anywhere), triathlons and quilting. 
Jim Czajkowski, Board member

James Czajkowski

Board member
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Jim recently retired as Crawford County Circuit Judge. Prior to taking the bench in 2010, he was in the private practice of law in Prairie du Chien for 35 years. From 1971 to 1975, he was a Judge Advocate (military lawyer) in the Air Force.

Jim and his wife Joyce have been married for 47 years and have two daughters and three grandchildren. Since 1975, they have lived on the same 240 acre farm in Wauzeka where all of the tillable land is enrolled in the CRP program. About nine acres of the CRP has been planted to native prairie. In addition, they are restoring a 17 acre savanna on a west-facing hillside and have realized some success in this effort. The savanna project was started at the urging of Abbie Church in 2009-2010. They currently have 80 acres, on which the savanna and prairie projects are located, protected with a conservation easement which they signed with the MIssissippi Valley Conservancy in 2009.

In addition to walking in the savanna and prairie, Jim remains a reserve judge with the court system. He continues his hobby of boat building (four wooden kayaks and two wooden canoes thus far) and also continues maintaining and using two old wooden boats (a 1957 Trojan and a 1963 Chris-Craft cruiser).

Jim previously served two terms on the board of directors and looks forward to serving again.   

Drake Hokanson

Board member
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Drake Hokanson is an author, photographer, editor, largely recovered college professor. Current job title: independent, organic, free-range scholar. Poor pay but great benefits.

He has taught at the college level for some 30 years at several institutions, most recently at Winona State University, in journalism, photographic communication and aviation, where he is Professor Emeritus, which provides a free parking space.

He is the author or coauthor of three books and the photographer of several photographic exhibits which have traveled nationally. He has new projects underway.

He likes nature. He’s a lousy birder and enjoys misidentifying them to the amusement of children. Two memorable nature experiences: hiking in the Himalayas and stepping in a mud dauber wasp nest in Iowa.

He is a traveler, having visited several odd corners of the globe, always with his beloved wife of several decades, Carol Kratz. He also likes airplanes, splitting firewood, prairies, the Mississippi River, and tent camping most anywhere.

He really likes Mississippi Valley Conservancy and its devotion to critical land protection

Tim Johnson, board member

Tim Johnson

Board member
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Dr. Timothy Johnson is the President and Chief Executive Officer at Mayo Clinic Health System Franciscan Healthcare in La Crosse, Wisconsin and also serves as Board Chair. Dr. Johnson came to Mayo Clinic Health System Franciscan Healthcare in June 2010 from the Austin (Minn.) Medical Center, part of Mayo Clinic Health System, where since 1988 he was a member of the medical staff and served 14 years as Chief Executive Officer and Board Chair. Dr. Johnson also serves as a part of Mayo Clinic Health System leadership through his service on the Mayo Community Care Clinical Practice Committee and chairs the Mayo Midwest Community Space and Capital Committee, and previously on the MCHS Board of Directors, Finance Committee and the ASYST (Electronic Medical Record) Design Council.

Dr. Johnson’s clinical background includes a medical degree from the University of Minnesota Medical School and completion of a residency in Family Medicine at Mayo Clinic. In December 2010 he completed a fellowship in Integrative Medicine from the University of Arizona. Dr. Johnson currently practices in physical medicine and rehab at Mayo Clinic Health System Franciscan Healthcare, focusing on pain management. He also holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Mankato State University and is a registered physical therapist.

Barb Kruse

Barb Kruse

Board member
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Barb Kruse and her husband Joe came to the La Crosse region in 1983 from the Twin Cities. Barb is a mother to 4 grown sons 3 of whom are married and a grandmother to 3 amazing granddaughters. Even though she is retired, she still does some work at the Franciscan Spirituality Center as an adjunct Spiritual Director. Barb is a member of the Woman’s Fund Board of directors and also a founding member of the Place of Grace Catholic worker house.  

In the warmer months you'll find Barb spending as much time as she can outside rollerblading, running, biking, gardening, fishing, bird watching and just being still.

She discovered the Mississippi Valley Conservancy about 10 years ago. She and her husband are members and over the years have enjoyed opportunities to explore some new aspects of the driftless landscape, and to meet people who are committed to caring for the earth as we do.

Dave Lange Board member

Dave Lange

Board member
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Dave grew up in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, where he explored the outdoors and fished the surrounding lakes while growing up. He went to UW-Madison and obtained a BA-HIstory and then a law degree from the UW Law School in 1980. He moved to La Crosse in 1980 and worked for the City Attorney's office for 5 years. He also worked in private practice for several years and then worked 29 years in the County Corporation Counsel office before retiring in January, 2017.

He has served on various boards and committees, including the City Park and Recreation Board and the La Crosse County Historical Society Board. He currently volunteers for the Upper Mississippi Regional Wildlife Center and as a guide at the Hixon House.

His hobbies include traveling, kayaking, tennis, cross country skiing and fishing, especially trout fishing in the Coulee region. He and his wife Karen enjoy spending time at their cabin on Otter Lake in northern Wisconsin. 

He married Karen in 1982 and they have 2 children. They love the natural beauty of the driftless area and plan on staying in this area during retirement. 

Dorothy Lenard

Board member
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Dorothy Lenard is an Administrator for the School of Natural Sciences, Engineering and Math at Viterbo University. She has a degree from Michigan Technological University in Forest Hydrology and a Master’s in Servant Leadership from Viterbo. She and her husband Rich grew up in a small bay town on Lake Michigan surrounded mostly by State land. Yes, she loves and misses the lake effect snowfalls and outdoor saunas in the winter. Having lived in all regions of the United States, they eventually chose the Driftless area to settle down in and raise their three children. She has been active in numerous community activities and boards. Her passion is studying the environment, especially water protection. While on the La Crosse City Council, she worked with others to pass in 2009 the City of La Crosse and County of La Crosse Strategic Plan for Sustainability.

In the summer, her family has a huge community garden in their yard where their specialties are garlic and perennials.  Preparing and sharing sustainable food with family and friends is her favorite hobby.

Mike O'Brien, board member

Mike O'Brien

Board member
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Mike grew up in Wisconsin and after college at Marquette University, the Medical College of Wisconsin, and subsequent medical residency training in Minneapolis, he moved to La Crosse in 1988 with his wife Sylvia and their three children. He was in the Internal Medicine department for the first 23 years, but in the last several years has worked in hospital medicine at Mayo Clinic Health System – Franciscan Healthcare, La Crosse where he is currently a member of the Board of Directors.

When Mike is not traveling with Sylvia or visiting their children, in his spare time he likes to play tennis, bird watch and slowly encroach on his yard with native prairie plants. He also enjoys volunteering with work groups and prairie burns with the Conservancy and other organizations. 

Mike Ripp Board member

Mike Ripp

Board member
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Mike is a native of Dodgeville, WI.  He received an Associate Degree in Conservation Technology form Fox Valley Technical College, Bachelor of Science in Land Management from Univ. of Wisc. - River Falls, and a Master of Science in Wildland Recreation Management from the Univ. of Idaho.  Retired from the Wisconsin DNR in 2007 after thirty years as a state park manager and natural resources educator.  Currently on science faculty of Upper Iowa Univ. instructing courses on environmental science and natural resources.  Also work part-time as a Grant County Deputy Sheriff - mostly in court security.  Live on 22 acres near Bagley, WI with wife, Kathy, where they are are busy restoring part of their land to oak savanna and prairie.  Served on MVC Board from 2005 to 2012.  Three years as Board Secretary.

Interests:  Travel, canoeing, camping, flying as a private pilot, bicycling, motorcycling, fishing, hunting.

Dave Skoloda

Board member
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Dave has been a writer and editor for about 60 years with experience in daily newspapers, agricultural publications and electronic news services. He also owned and edited weekly newspapers. He is a Navy veteran, and taught journalism at Winona State University.

A founding member and volunteer for Mississippi Valley Conservancy for 20 years, Dave was its first president and twice served as interim executive director. He is a volunteer easement monitor and also serves on the communications committee.  

His hobbies include playing music, wood cutting, skiing, kayaking, hiking, bird watching, getting away to small cabin in Minnesota, tennis and reading. 

Dave has been married to Gretchen for 48 years. They have two grown children and four grandchildren. 

David Vetrano Board member

David Vetrano

Board member
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David grew up in the Milwaukee Area. His father started him fishing at age 3 and was his mentor developing his lifelong interest in fishing and hunting.

After a four-year stint in the military during the Vietnam War, David attended the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point. He received his Bachelor of Science in Fisheries Management in 1977.

He worked as a fisheries biologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for more than 33 years. Almost all of his time was spent managing the coldwater program in streams of the Driftless area in SW Wisconsin. While there, he witnessed the streams change from "put and take", heavily stocked waters to self-sustaining streams with very little stocking. During his tenure he realized managed grazing had the potential to rebuild the rural landscape while protecting water quality.

David retired in 2010 but has stayed active in Driftless Area water issues. He serves on the Board of Directors of GrassWorks, a grass based advocacy group and on the board of the Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship program. DGA is the only nationally accredited program training dairy grazers. He also serves as a consultant to the Trout Unlimited Driftless Area Restoration Effort (TUDARE)

He currently lives on a farm where he pastures Jersey steers. His wife Linda, a trained culinary chef, has a specialty dessert business.

In his spare time David loves all kinds of fishing, hunting, working in the garden and the occasional Harley ride with Linda on scenic Driftless roads.

Tim Wucherer

Board Director
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Tim received his Bachelor of Science degree in Conservation with a minor in Field Biology from the University of Wisconsin – River Falls. Currently he is working to receive a Master’s Degree in Entomology (study of insects) at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.

Tim began his career with the Wisconsin DNR as a Wildlife Technician preserving prairies, wetlands, and Oak Savannahs. Worked two seasons with the Minnesota DNR as a Natural Resource Technician.
Tim currently holds the position of Resource Conservation Management Specialist with Buffalo County Landy Conservation Department.

In his spare time, you may find Tim hunting, fishing, or anything outdoors.

Barbara Frank

Board member emeritus
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Barbara has been involved for over 50 years with environmental protection at local, state, and national levels. Her special interests include environmental health, environmental politics, energy and climate change.

She was one of the co-founders of Mississippi Valley Conservancy and is a past board member. In addition, she has served numerous other organizations as a Board member, co-founder and financial supporter: the Hixon Forest Eco-Park, Coulee Partners for Sustainability, the Coulee Region Group of the Sierra Club and the La Crosse Community Theater. She has also been active with the League of Women Voters, the Pump House and Options in Reproductive Care. She was a member of the Minnesota- Wisconsin Boundary Area Commission.

Barbara was Board President of Lutheran Hospital at the time of their merger with Gundersen Clinic. She served two terms on the National Sierra Club Board and has been active on the Club's State Chapter ExCom. She also works with Midwest Environmental Advocates.

Barbara was honored by Gathering Waters as their 2003 Conservationist of the Year and in 1998 received a Special Service Award from the National Sierra Club. Her hobbies and interests include art, especially painting; reading, she's a member of 3 book groups; canoeing, loves the Boundary Waters; and cooking, which she finds very creative.  She and her husband Donald have been happily married since 1960. They have 2 married children and 4 grandchildren.

Don Frank, Board member emeritus

Don Frank

Board member emeritus
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Don Frank grew up in Chicago and earned his engineering degrees from the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1951 and 1957. He spent two years in the Navy as an engineering officer on a destroyer escort.  

The Trane Company brought him to La Crosse where he met and married Barbara. In 1965 Trane moved them to Lexington, Kentucky, where they enjoyed hiking and canoeing in the Red River Gorge and got involved in saving this national treasure from being dammed by the Army Corps of Engineers. Thus began a long and continuing membership in the Sierra Club.Barb went on to later serve two terms on the Club's national Board.   

After moving back to La Crosse, the BWCA has been a special vacation place for them.They've taken over 25 camping trips there, starting out with a 75 pound canoe, tenting, portaging and cooking over a campfire. They've since graduated to a 30 pound Kevlar canoe and now stay in a cabin on the edge of the wilderness.

Don retired from Trane in 1988, but continued to do several special assignments for them. After that he served as President of Machine Products Co. in La Crosse, and then as President of Fusion Coatings Co. in Winona. He finally learned how to retire for good, but soon became very involved with volunteer activities. He was a community member on the Gundersen/Lutheran Board of Trustees and has served on several of its committees. Don also was treasurer for the Mobile Meals program where he was frequently drafted to make deliveries. Don has had a 20 year commitment as Coordinator for the La Crosse area AARP Tax-Aide program.

When Barb termed out as a Mississippi Valley Conservancy board member Don joined the Board and served as its treasurer for a few years before the Conservancy went to accrual accounting. He is now an Emeritus Board Member after having termed off the Board in 2017. Don and Barbara have two married children and four grandchildren.

Phil Gelatt, board member emeritus

Philip Gelatt

Board member emeritus
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Philip Gelatt, an avid bird watcher and CEO of Northern Engraving Corp., joined the Mississippi Valley Conservancy board of directors before the organization went public with an event on Grandad Bluff October 13, 1997. He brought both substantial financial backing and vision to the young organization. As the board huddled in the Grandad Bluff shelter after the public announcement on a windy, cold day, Gelatt asked the group to identify a project that could make a significant, immediate impact beyond the ability of the young organization to tackle. Craig Thompson told him of a 310-acre farm near Holmen in the Conservation Reserve Program that was a breeding area for rare grassland birds such as Bell’s vireo. It was likely to be developed for housing in the near future. Not long after that, Gelatt said that he would acquire and preserve the farm by swapping land that he owned next to the freeway in Onalaska. It took time, but several years later, he did just that. Gelatt had been restoring the New Amsterdam Grasslands to prairie for several years with the Conservancy's help. The Conservancy purchased it in 2007 using money from the State Stewardship Fund and a donation of a substantial part of the value by Northern Engraving.