Home News and Features Hunger Mountain Co-op Picks Two GM Finalists

Hunger Mountain Co-op Picks Two GM Finalists

Hunger Mountain Coop. Photo by Carla Occaso.
Two people have emerged as finalists from the Hunger Mountain Co-op general manager hiring committee, but their identities have not been made public, yet, despite having introduced them to co-op member owners. 

“On Monday (June 3) and Tuesday (June 4) of this week, we put each of two general manager finalists through a marathon day, giving them a chance to get to know the various co-op stakeholders and vice versa,” states a notice posted to the Hunger Mountain Co-op website on June 7 by the organization’s Council President Carl Etnier. 

Etnier described how each day started with a tour of the store, meetings with staff, and lunch with senior management. Members then were allowed to meet the candidates from 2 to 3:30 p.m. And finally, the candidates were interviewed by the council. 

“The council is currently deliberating on what we know of the candidates and of the co-op’s needs. We’ll announce our decision as soon as it is appropriate,” Etnier wrote.

This month marks ten months after former longtime general manager Kari Bradley announced his resignation in the wake of a community and staff uproar over a sexual harassment/luring incident. The incident involved a teenage worker who had been allegedly sexually harassed and lured by her supervisor during and outside of work hours. Bradley stated his resignation was in response to a “sexual harassment matter.” Employee Mary Mullally was appointed and has been serving as interim general manager since shortly after the resignation.

The case drew public attention when it became widely known that Montpelier police arrested Reis Winkeljohn, 27, for alleged criminal sexually inappropriate conduct via social media with a teenage girl who worked under his supervision at the co-op, according to information from the Montpelier Police Department dated June 27, 2023.

This case has apparently led to other problems at the co-op as well, from staff dissatisfaction with staffing levels to a projected spending overage to lingering concerns over what has been done regarding the sexual harassment policy.

Hunger Mountain’s council brought up the fallout of the incident several times during its recent meeting on May 21 under a few different agenda items, according to an audio recording posted on the Hunger Mountain Co-op website.

During the public comment section at the beginning of the meeting, Ken Russell mentioned the intensity of a “struggle in this group.” Russell noted a new general manager is going to be stepping into this struggle, and called for “radical mutual acceptance” among people, including “struggles that Carl may have, Elizabeth may have had, Eva, even Reis.” Russell followed the last name by saying “maybe I shouldn’t say that,” but he said, “We are all human. We are struggling to work together. We have a beautiful vision of what a co-op should be.”

The situation was also mentioned following a staff satisfaction survey presentation. Part of a staff dissatisfaction concern involved employees being unhappy with shifts chronically going unstaffed. Council Vice President Eva Schectman later said she wanted to reflect on issues of short staffing, saying the issue runs across-the-board from top management down, “so hopefully we can get a new general manager in place so we will be able to start addressing these concerns. But until then, things are tight.” She noted that not only did the general manager resign in August, but so did the human resources manager.

Interim general manager Mullally also brought attention to widely shared staff concerns, with sexual harassment the “first and foremost concern since last summer.” She then listed everything that has been done and is in the process of being done to address the matter. First, she said management has updated the HR policy, audited HR, held listening sessions with the interim HR manager, held community healing topics at the annual meeting, had multiple Employee Assistance Program site visits, listening sessions with Mosaic and Outright Vermont, sexual harassment training for management and union leadership, and plans for sexual harassment training for “every single staff member in June.”

Other than the search for a new general manager and fallout from last year’s sexual harassment incident, the co-op is also facing replacement of a resigned council member. Etnier did not name the person who resigned, but a resignation of a council member was accepted during the May 21 meeting. Applications for a new council member will be accepted until June 11.

The next council meeting is scheduled for June 11.