A history of Middle Wisconsin

  • MADISON, WI - FEBRUARY 18: Jesse Jackson speaks to thousands of union protesters opposing Governor Scott Walker's new budget bill at the Wisconsin Capitol on February 18, 2011 in Madison, Wisconsin. Photograph by Matt Apps

Image Source: Shutterstock: MADISON, WI – FEBRUARY 18: Jesse Jackson speaks to thousands of union protesters opposing Governor Scott Walker’s new budget bill at the Wisconsin Capitol on February 18, 2011 in Madison, Wisconsin. Photograph by Matt Apps

In the cold dark days of February 2011, Act 10 was passed. That struck down many unions in Wisconsin. The teachers were demoralized.

For every action, there is a reaction. The People of Wisconsin joined together and a movement of resistance was born. The grassroots grew out of disbelief and anger.

Middle Wisconsin was created by a group of people in Marathon County. It was a flashmob of people in disbelief. They didn’t see Act 10 coming. Then a community of resisters was born. Discussions were held in local gatherings. A newsletter was created with Dave Svetlik as one of the original editors/writers. The anger was channeled into creative events.

Important events were carried out by Middle Wisconsin: a panel discussion at UWMC about progressive taxes as well as a voter ID event in the 400 Block of Wausau. Another event in the 400 Block of Wausau was a public education event to inform people about vouchers and privatization of schools.

Middle Wisconsin assisted in Annabelle Apartments and finding housing for the homeless as well as the Thomas Street proposal. MW helped collected signatures for the recall of the governor.

In 2012 and 2013, Sarah Thurs assisted our newsletter efforts with her editing. Another grassroots group, Wisconsin Community Voices, connected with Middle Wisconsin and contributed the slogan of Fairness, Respect and Community. In 2013 Middle Wisconsin met with representatives from Citizen Climate Lobby and Wisconsin Public Education Network of Stevens Point as well as representatives from Citizen Action in Wisconsin Rapids. Laura Lokken and Steve Grillo joined our Team at that time.

Dave Svetlik edited the newsletter for 4 years. Virginia Kirsch became the editor in May of 2015. In 2014, Tom Kilian became our webmaster/publisher. The Middle Wisconsin newsletter became a nonprofit online magazine.

Middle Wisconsin published articles about economics, education, health care, the environment, and state government. Journalism is the first draft of history, and the publication has documented the resistance to the GOP trashing of Wisconsin. Many fine articles are in our archives.

In 2016, Mark Keller became the publisher. Tom Kilian continued as the webmaster and innovator of our website. Readership of Middle Wisconsin continued to grow. Laura Lokken posted material on the Middle Wisconsin Facebook page. Lokken introduced Jennifer Dolan to Middle Wisconsin, who began writing for the publication in 2018.

At the same time, we saw the growth of more specific groups working with specific issues. A dream come true was the birth of the Northcentral Organizing Co-operative of Citizen Action of Wisconsin with a real live director, Joel Lewis, working in our area.

Wisconsin Public Education Network (WPEN) grew in membership and sponsored statewide conferences, educating the people about the value of public education for all in Wisconsin. WPEN continues to develop relationships with the people of Wisconsin. Citizens for a Clean Wausau was created as a way to clean up the polluted area around Thomas Street.

Middle Wisconsin has been engaged since 2011. In February, 2021, Jennifer Dolan took on the role of editor and Will Hascall became the publisher of Middle Wisconsin. While both were willing to continue in these roles, they did not want to be responsible for putting together a new board of directors for the nonprofit. The May 17th edition will be Middle Wisconsin’s last.

With the advent of a real live local newspaper, the Wausau Pilot and Review, the needs that Middle Wisconsin fulfilled will now largely be met with this free online daily newspaper owned and operated by Shireen Siewert. Wausau Pilot and Review prints births, deaths, local news, as well as guest columns and letters to the editor. They also welcome anonymous tips from citizens. That newspaper continues to grow in readership and financial support.

Not to be forgotten is Peter Weinshenk’s Record-Review. This hard copy newspaper comes out each week for $40 a year. Peter covers the news of government in western Marathon County. He also covers events in Wausau. His main focus is Athens, Edgar, Abbotsford and Marathon. His editorials are focused, based on evidence, and help citizens understand what is going on.

As we move into other chapters of our life, may we be guided by our core values of Fairness, Respect and Community.