Under the influence
The year’s 15 most influential people in Greater Madison
(page 2 of 3)
Sabrina Madison: Progressive Partner
Already a motivational speaker, poet, self-described “socialpreneur,” and the queen of motivating people to live their dreams, Sabrina Madison organized the first Black Women’s Leadership Conference in Madison, aka Hey Miss Progress. The name of the conference also happens to be a take on Sabrina’s nickname — Progress — and it’s well earned.
The inaugural conference, held in May, sold out in a mere eight days and went better than Madison could have asked for. Each woman who purchased a ticket walked away with strategies for personal and professional success. “To have a single space filled wall-to-wall with predominantly black women who were there to learn from each other and also grow with each other was both amazing and inspiring,” she states.
It was so inspiring that next year Madison plans a two-day event that will cap off Black Women’s Leadership Week across the state. While planning to make the second annual conference bigger and better and elevate the community profile of African-American women and their opportunities for leadership, she’ll continue to find ways to spark a dialogue about racial issues and motivate everyone from middle school students to business professionals.
Bob Miller: Mayoral Management
For his leading role in redeveloping Monona’s commercial district, Mayor Bob Miller has demonstrated his influence with projects like the Fairway Glen multifamily housing project, Treysta on the Water, and the Waypoint Public House restaurant. More robust economic development activity in Monona, which started with the multi-year reconstruction of Monona Drive, has been a hallmark of Miller’s tenure as mayor.
With both the Monona Drive and Broadway corridors undergoing long overdue redevelopment, the city of 8,000 residents is thriving like never before. However, with no additional land to annex, the landlocked community has had to be creative with its space and planning, as illustrated by the 7.6-acre Monona Riverfront Project, which will redevelop the Broadway/Bridge Road area.
Part of that creativity stems from Miller’s 30 years of business management experience, which gives him a unique perspective. After executive stints at General Communications, Discover Mediaworks, WKOW-TV, and Dynatech Newstar, he understands the day-to-day experience of people who run Monona’s 500 businesses. With other time served at the Overture Center for the Arts and Aldo Leopold Nature Center, he has an appreciation for the finer things that contribute to a community’s quality of life.
Oscar Mireles: Poetry in Notion
If filling a vital educational role wasn’t enough for Oscar Mireles, perhaps filling an artistic one will be. Earlier this year, Mayor Paul Soglin named Mireles, the director of Madison’s Omega School, as Madison’s Poet Laureate, a volunteer position he will hold for two years. Mireles, who is the city’s first Latino poet laureate, is truly honored to be among past Madison poet laureates and fully intends to carry on their quest to make poetry a daily part of life for Madisonians.
A past winner of the Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award, Mireles already contributes to the arts through poetry that expresses the Latino experience. As poet laureate, he will be expected to compose poems for special events and to be an ambassador for poetry. Having written poetry for 30 years, he’s looking forward to assignments such as coordinating quarterly readings by guest poets at City Council meetings and the Metro Bus Lines poetry project, serving as the city’s poet ambassador in the schools, and reading poetry throughout the community.
As executive director and principal of Omega School, his life’s work has been pure poetry for students of all ages looking to complete their high school education and recompose their lives.
Tim Omer: Cheese Champ
Wisconsin is the Dairy State, so when a local cheesemaker takes home an international prize, it’s Gouda news. Consider this to be another organizational recognition, and the champion cheesemaker, Emmi Roth USA of Fitchburg, is led by President and Managing Director Tim Omer.
The cheese that made Emmi Roth famous is Roth Grand Cru Surchoix, an alpine-style cheese that won the World Championship Cheese Contest. As funny as it seems in a state that boasts roughly 700 varieties of cheese, Wisconsin cheeses do not dominate international competitions. Emmi’s entry, which is actually made at its Monroe facility, beat out a record number of 2,995 entries from around the world and bested its two closest competitors — a smear ripened soft cheese from Switzerland and an aged Gouda from the Netherlands.
That’s no small feat when you consider that cheesemakers from Switzerland have won four of the past five world championships, and that an American cheesemaker hasn’t won the top honor since 1988. After finally bringing home the prize, we have a feeling Omer and his staff will be strolling around Green County Cheese Days and other regional events with some championship swagger.
Nick Quint: Taste of Victory
For a businessman, Nick Quint has also been a pretty effective lobbyist. Quint, the owner of Madison’s Yahara Bay Distillery, was instrumental in changing a law in Wisconsin that prohibited distillers such as Yahara Bay from offering product tastings at licensed retailers such as groceries or liquor stores.
When legislation was finally enacted and signed into law, it meant he could actually have store tastings in his home state. To some that might not seem like much of an accomplishment, but in an area where government isn’t always responsive to business needs, it’s more significant than meets the eye.
The law has already made a difference for distillers, which comes as no surprise to Quint. Whenever tastings were held in the Yahara Bay Distillery consumers bought the products, and now they are doing so in other retail venues. With a level playing field for alcohol manufacturers — wine and beer sampling had been allowed for years at Wisconsin retail locations — another wave of business development is possible.
“Craft products have to be tasted because they all cost a little bit more than the big name brands,” says Quint, “and we can’t afford to advertise the way the big brands do.”