When you want to dig into a hot plate of food, it’s best to start at the edges, otherwise you can get burned. 


The same is true for delving into a hot topic, like race and equity. 

Todd Schmidt, Waunakee’s village administrator, used that analogy as related to him by Silvia Guerin, a Create Waunakee committee member who helped spearhead the Waunakee Is Home video series. 

Todd spoke to the Waunakee Rotary Club about his experience in the International City Managers Association’s Leadership Institute (ICMA) on Race, Equity and Inclusion, a collaboration with the Kettering Foundation and the National Civic League. It drew municipal managers from throughout the country, mostly cities such as Boulder, Colorado, Eugene, Oregon, and Grand Rapids, Michigan. Waunakee may have been the only village among the participating.

The purpose was to explore barriers and identify how to start and continue community conversation about race, equity and inclusion. 

Waunakee is Home Is aimed at telling the stories of Waunakee’s diverse population, one family at a time, including Sylvia’s. She’s from Brazil and married to a man from Ireland; the two found their home in Waunakee. 

Admitting he is no expert on racial issues and diversity, equity and inclusion, Todd sees the telling of these different stories as a means of fostering a more welcoming community, while starting at the proverbial edges, he said. 

During the leadership institute, the municipal managers saw resistance in some communities. In one city, where the council experienced turnover, the new leaders ended that manager’s participation. 

But race relations and equity have historically experienced gains followed by losses, a pattern Todd compared to his own experience of mountain climbing. He said to reach the summit, a climber has to switch back.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned what he called a “beloved community,” what Todd said we may agree is the summit. 

Todd shared King’s “global vision in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the beloved community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.”

Todd called it a good goal, and one step toward it is learning the many stories in one’s community. 

Waunakee’s population is changing, Todd said, citing data from the past two censuses. In 2010, Waunakee was 95.83% percent white; in 2020, it was 88.76. 

“In terms of race and ethnicity diversity, we are seeing that change. But we should also not be only limited to this in understanding the diversity of our community,” Todd said. 

The Leadership Institute introduced Todd and his cohorts to Chimananda Adichie, a Nigerian author and novelist, who talks about the danger of a single story, noting that leads to stereotypes. Todd shared this quote from Adichie: 

“The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue but that they are incomplete.” 

Many stories make up a community and a culture such as Waunakee’s and Adichie’s homeland of Nigeria. 

In this way, Waunakee Is Home will help engage the community in Waunakee’s many stories. One of those videos tells of a New Yorker whose parents are from Korea who now lives in Waunakee with his family. 

“The videos talk about that which is great and also about that which is challenging, so these are real stories, these are beyond the single story and with that, start to build familiarity, which then steps us toward a more welcoming community,” Todd said. 

The hope is that the Waunakee Is Home concept translates to all Waunakee residents and their neighbors. 

“It demonstrates how easy it is to learn more than a single story from those who we share home with in our community,” he added. 

To view some of the videos, visit https://www.facebook.com/watch/1160489817462287/813486366070558




Other News:

-President Elect Jennifer Tasker announced that the Rotary Lights collections are doing well but slightly under last year’s at this time. Rainy weather may be to blame, but marketing efforts, such as a Facebook video that reached 80,000 viewers, seem to be successful. 

-Feb. 9: Mark that date in your calendar for the 50th celebration of the Waunakee Rotary Club. 

-Ken Diericks provided a $200 donation in memory of his wife, Sharon, who recently passed


Guests: Tim Schell, guest of Todd Schmidt; Cordelia Whitley, guest of Sara Whitley.


Visiting Rotarians: None.


Birthdays: Dec. 21, Howard Teeter; Dec. 21, Max Ujdak; Dec. 25, David Weishoff; Dec. 27, Jim Kattner.


Anniversaries: Dec. 27, Jim and Jean Elvekrog; Dec. 27, Rich and Sue Wipperfurth


Greeters: Dec. 22, Kathy Cefalu and Scott Cochems; Dec. 29, John Cullen and David Dargenio; Jan. 5, Allan Dassow and Lori Derauf; Jan. 12, Patrick Durden and Fritz Durst; Jan. 19, Jim Elvekrog and Taylor Endres.