Home News and Features Hunger Mountain Co-op Hires Interim Leadership

Hunger Mountain Co-op Hires Interim Leadership

Photo courtesy of Hunger Mountain Co-op.
In the wake of a “sexual harassment matter” that became public in July, Hunger Mountain Co-op General Manager Kari Bradley will resign, and Human Resources Manager Jay Wisner will retire, both effective Sept. 1. The co-op has hired two out-of-state people and, at least temporarily, promoted one person from the inside to manage the natural foods store that has been in operation in Montpelier for 50 years. 

The situation unraveled throughout July as Hunger Mountain Co-op employee Reis Winkeljohn was arrested and arraigned July 20 on charges of allegedly luring a child (felony), disseminating indecent material to a minor (misdemeanor), and disturbing the peace by phone (misdemeanor). He pleaded not guilty at the arraignment and was released on the condition he stay away from the victim and any other females under the age of 18. The felony charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in jail, a $10,000 fine, or both. 

To fill part of the leadership gap at the co-op, current facilities manager Mary Mullally will serve as interim general manager beginning Sept. 1, according to Eva Schectman, Hunger Mountain Co-op council president. Additionally, co-op leadership has engaged the services of two consultants from Madison, Wisconsin, to take the helm. Both are affiliated with Columinate, according to columinate.coop. Columinate is a “national consulting co-operative serving mission-driven organizations’’ such as food co-ops, its website states.

Schectman confirmed some details about who will be hired to manage the co-op on an interim basis. “The Co-op has hired Assistant Interim General Manager Wynston Estis at $3,700 per week plus housing and travel expenses,” Schectman informed The Bridge by email Aug. 18. Estis is due to get a $15,000 deposit within seven days of signing the contract, to be applied to her final invoice.

Estis has “led many co-ops through turnaround efforts to address areas of failing performance in operations; merchandising and promotion; financial systems; marketing and owner outreach; and board monitoring of financial and general manager performance,” according to information on columinate.coop. Estis’s areas of expertise includes “project management for store resets,” and “systems analysis and personnel assessments that strengthen operations.” Also, she is skilled at “general manager development and support,” the website states. Estis is a retail grocery co-operative consultant based in Madison, Wisconsin, according to her LinkedIn page.

On the human resources front, Sarah Dahl has been hired to perform a human resources audit as interim human resources manager. The audit fee will be $3,900 total. In addition to that sum,  Dahl’s management fee will be $2,300 per week for a two-month engagement. Schectman wrote that the fact that both women are from Madison, Wisconsin, is a coincidence, but both also worked with the Madison, Wisconsin Willy Street Co-op stores.

In addition to the interim management team, co-op leadership has gotten involved with Mosaic — a Barre-based nonprofit organization with a mission to help people heal from sexual harm. Schectman said Mosaic has offered to support Hunger Mountain Co-op at no charge concerning sexual harassment issues. Offering information from Mosaic Director Mary Mackie, Schectman wrote that Mosaic supports people to identify their needs and “take steps that feel right for them.” Additionally, Mosaic offers support to all people in Washington County and can be reached at 802-479-5577 or by email at info@mosaic-vt.org.