Strategy Team: A team of leaders began to develop this list in August of 2008. The individuals recommended for this team were asked throughout the fall and winter. Those who accepted the nomination are on the list below. On March 19, 2009 Common Ground delegates voted to affirm this slate.
Rusty Borkin is a Senior Communications Strategist at Kahler Slater. In his former position as Vice President at Hanson Dodge Creative, Rusty led the organizing effort there to make this marketing firm one of the few companies to be Common Ground members. He facilitated the branding process that resulted in Common Ground’s name and its graphic representation. Rusty is involved with several of the Common Ground initiatives; the Youth Jobs Team, the Communications Team, the interim Strategy Team and the newly formed fundraising group. He lives on Milwaukee’s East Side with his wife and misses his two grown daughters who reside in Washington DC and New York City.
Keith L. Cogburn is the Director of the Lakeland Baptist Association. He has played a role in helping organize Common Ground almost since its inception. He received national training through the Industrial Areas Foundation in November 2007. Keith has lived in Wisconsin since 1997, having previously resided in New Jersey and Texas. He and his wife, Laura, a teacher in the St. Francis School District, have two young adult children.
Bob Connolly is a member of Gesu Parish and Co-chair of the Common Ground Health Care committee. He is currently a member of the interim Common Ground Strategy Team. Bob was the President of the Greater Milwaukee Sponsors which raised the $750,000 in seed money which helped Common Ground get started. Bob is a small business owner. As co-owner of The James Company, a fundraising consulting firm, he has helped congregations and religious non-profits raise over $850 million over the past 26 years.
Rev. Willie B. Davis is the Youth Pastor of Greater New Birth Church, which serves over 300 youth through programming and mentorship. Pastor Davis has through his efforts of community service partnered with organizations such as Marquette University in the development of a community transformation project which targeted the inner city for social development, housing and education. He is currently working with Common Ground where one of the most recent achievements was the 2009 Summer Initiative Program which allows for 3,000 additional jobs for the youth in our communities.
Rev. Jean Dow serves as an Associate Pastor at Immanuel Presbyterian Church on Milwaukee’s Lower East Side, with primary responsibilities for mission and education. She has been involved with Greater Milwaukee Sponsors and Common Ground for the last three years. A lifelong Midwesterner, she has lived in Milwaukee for 7 years and currently resides in the Brewers’ Hill neighborhood. She has a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, and a Master of Divinity from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois.
Rev. Thomas Eggebrecht is the pastor at Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church and a Circuit Counselor, Circuit 5, South Wisconsin District of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. He was a founding member and secretary of Greater Milwaukee Sponsors and an original member of the interim Common Ground Strategy Team. Pastor Eggebrecht has served congregations in North Carolina, Virginia and Milwaukee, where he has been pastor of Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church in the Sherman Park neighborhood for the past twelve years. He is an Adjunct Professor of Theology at Concordia University – Wisconsin, coaches high school baseball, and has served on various community and church-related boards and committees. Tom lives in Sherman Park with his wife Tammy. They have two children: Ashlyn (20) and Benjamin (19).
Jonathan Gundlach has been an active participant in Common Ground since April 2007. He co-led Hanson Dodge Creative’s effort to create materials for the Founding Convention in April 2008 and is involved in the Youth Jobs campaign. Jonathan graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 1988 with a degree in fine art. He is a manager at Hanson Dodge Creative where he has been employed since 1997. He is married to his wife, Mary Kay, and has a young son, Sam. He is an active photographer and painter, taking photographs for Common Ground, local bands and other events. Johnathan’s paintings can be seen at www.jonathangundlach.com
Rev. Jeffrey R. Haines is a pastor at St. Frances Cabrini Parish in West Bend. He is Dean of District #6 of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee (Washington County) and a member of the Board of Directors of United Way of Washington County. In Common Ground, Fr. Haines has participated in the work of the Strategic Planning Task Force Recruitment of new congregations and organizations in Washington County. He has assisted in the development of the local core team and the identification of community issues. Fr. Haines is a graduate of Marquette University (B.A. Liberal Arts in 1981) and St. Francis De Sales Seminary (M. Div. 1985.) He has 24 years of experience in pastoral ministry in parishes located in Milwaukee, Fox Point, Whitewater and West Bend.
Pastor Roy Hopgood, Jr. is the founding pastor of Mt. Horeb Baptist Church in Milwaukee. He is a consultant with the Minnesota/Wisconsin Baptist Convention in African-American ministries and a founder and director of the Leadership Training Institute in Milwaukee. He has nurtured the beginning of several new congregations in Milwaukee and served as a key leader in the Lakeland Association.
Paul Hull is the Christian Education Minister at Progressive Baptist Church in Milwaukee where he is the Co-Sunday School Superintendant. Paul has an Associate Degree in Computer Science from MATC and was a Milwaukee Firefighter for 25 years. As a founding member of Common Ground he is dedicated to both a diverse and nonpartisan agenda for Southeastern Wisconsin. Paul has been married for over 29 years and has one daughter.
Howard Karsh is originally from Denver Colorado. He has a B.A. degree in English and History from Northwestern University. He attended graduate school at the University of Wisconsin receiving degrees in U.S. Foreign Policy and Secondary Education. After 10 years in business, he has spent the rest of his working life in the Milwaukee Jewish Community in a variety of capacities, always teaching somewhere at the same time. He has lived 50 years in Wisconsin, 40 in Sherman Park and has always been invloved in the community. Howard represents Congregation Beth Jehudah, a community of 170 families and 1000 people all living in just a few square blocks beginning on 52nd and Burleigh. The Congregation is led by a second and third generation of Chasidic Rabbis, Rabbi Michael Twerski and his son, Rabbi Benzion Twerski, both committed to leading and growing the last urban Jewish community in Milwaukee.
Vanessa L. Llanas is affiliated with CORE/El Centro, a founding member agency of Common Ground, where she is a board member. She became involved with Greater Milwaukee Sponsors in May of 2007 and has been a leader with Common Ground since its founding in April 2008. Vanessa has worked in the non-profit sector for over 15 years. She has worked with families on a variety of issues that include: child abuse prevention, financial education, housing counseling, domestic violence, and immigration. Vanessa believes strongly in civic service and is a steering committee member of the Milwaukee Latino Health Coalition, an Alumni of AmeriCorps VISTA (Chicago), Public Allies (Milwaukee), Latino Non-profit Leadership Program and the Wisconsin Rural Leadership Program. Vanessa currently works at the American Lung Association in Wisconsin as a Tobacco Disparities Program Coordinator.
Clare Peiffer is on the staff at St. Anthony on the Lake Catholic Church in Pewaukee as Coordinator of Service Learning, coordinating service and outreach for families and high school youth. She has been involved in Common Ground since May of 2007 with the group from St. Anthony and leads the core team there. Clare is the co-chair of the Housing Action Committee and serves on the committee to increase membership in Waukesha County. She attended Common Ground U in February, 2008 and has served on the interim Strategy Team over the last year. Clare is married to Jeff and has three children ranging in age from 12 to 20. She has lived in southeastern Wisconsin for 35 years and is excited to be involved in an organization dedicated to bringing positive change to the region.
David Quam is a member of the North Shore Education Association – Nicolet Chapter. He is the union president and is the science department chair at Nicolet High School. He has been
a teacher for 18 years. He attended Common Ground U about 2 years ago and became immediately interested in Common Ground. Since then he has been involved as a member of the interim Strategy Team and as a Health Team committee member. David has a Doctorate from Cardinal Stritch University in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service. He also has a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction and a BA in Chemistry and Education. He has coached high school football for 17 years. David is married and has 3 children (11, 8, 5.)
Rev. Franz Rigert is the minister at Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Grafton. He has served on the interim Common Ground Strategy Team, guides his congregation’s commitment to Common Ground, works collaboratively with Habitat for Humanity trying to get an affordable housing project off the ground in Grafton/Cedarburg and strives to build Common Ground organizational support in Ozaukee County. His wife, Trinn, is an early education specialist for the Cedarbug Schools. They have three children, Mitchell (15), Jordan (12) and Marianna (9) and live in the town of Cedarburg. Franz enjoys music, traveling, cross-cultural experiences and landscaping. He has served Pilgrim UCC for 14 years. This year the congregation is celebrating Pilgrim’s 50th Anniversary!
Bob Schuelke is the Director of Human Concerns at Three Holy Women Parish in Milwaukee. He has been working in social justice work for two Catholic parishes for approximately 6 years. He has been involved with Common Ground since its onset. He was on the board of Greater Milwaukee Sponsors, participated in Common Ground U and was co-leader of the intial housing issue campaign. Bob has been married almost 40 years and has 3 children and 3 grandchildren.
Rev. Brian Sonderman is the Lead Pastor at Metrobrook Church in Milwaukee. In addition to serving on the interim Strategy Team and building relationships with regional leaders, he has worked to recruit other Evangelical congregations to join Common Ground. In 2005, Rev. Sonderman helped launch Metrobrook Church with a vision to serve and transform Milwaukee through a movement of the Gospel. Prior to serving in full-time ministry, he worked as a Certified Public Accoutant in Milwaukee. Rev. Sonderman is a lifelong resident of the Milwaukee area and resides with his wife, Mara, and 3 children in Waukesha.
Theresa Tobin is a member of the Three Holy Women Catholic Parish Common Ground core team and is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Marquette University where she works primarily in ethics and women and gender studies. She also teaches courses in health care and medical ethics. Theresa is co-chair of the Common Ground Health Care Reform Committee.
Rev. Debra Trakel is the Rector at St. James Episcopal Church located in Milwaukee. She was on the original Board of Directors and a charter member of the interim Strategy Team of Common Ground. Rev. Trakel has been the Rector of St. James for ten years. She grew up in the Milwaukee/Waukesha area including all of her education before seminary. In addition to being an Episcopal priest she is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has worked privately and in state government for twenty years. She has a passion for justice.
Pa Vang is currently an Associate Outreach Speacialist at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, School of Continuing Education-Center for Urban Community Development. Since 1996 Pa has worked on different projects and programs including domestic violence, refugee education, evaluation capacity building, court interpreting, batterer education, participatory action scholarship and community involvement in Wisconsin with special focus on the underrepresented groups and refugees. For the past seven years she has coordinated professional development courses that integrate classroom instruction and family engagement with an emphasis on learning language, content and culture for teachers working with English Language Learners. Pa is the wife of Pastor Tongber S. Vang of Hmong First Baptist Church in Milwaukee. They have 3 sons.