After a successful first few years in its current location, Timber Hill Winery is pursuing new digs about a mile away that will include its first on-site vineyard.
Owner Amanda Stefl plans to move the winery north of its location off Storrs Lake Road to a larger space on John Paul Road in the town of Milton.
Stefl built her wine-tasting room in 2015 and opened a year later. Now her winery is “bursting at the seams” at its current location, and it’s time for an expansion.
The winery sold nearly 34,000 bottles in 2020 and served 67 types of wine.
“It’s going to give us more space, which we need,” Stefl said. “Right now we have kind of a small setting, and it’s worked well for starting out. But being able to expand for not just the vineyard, but also having more room for indoor and outdoor seating, will be a big difference.”
The winery currently buys its grapes from Wisconsin vineyards, as well as one in New York. The new location will include a vineyard, which Stefl believes will create a better experience for customers.
“Hopefully, too, being able to have the vineyard there, that overall could just provide a better ambience and more of a true winery/vineyard setting than what we currently have,” she said.
The new location features plenty of open space and wooded area, which will offer more breathing room for the winery and its patrons, Stefl said.
The Milton Town Board approved a conditional-use permit for the site Dec. 14. Since then, the Stefls have been working on bidding the project to builders.
Most of the current wine varieties will stay on the menu.
Grape vines, including Marquette and Itasca vines, have been ordered for planting this spring at the new site. The vines typically take at least three years to grow grapes viable for wine, Stefl said.
She said her plan is to move everything to the new location. To start, however, the tasting room and retail area of the winery will move to John Paul Road, and wine production will stay in the existing building.
It’s not clear yet it if the wine tanks and other production equipment can be moved to the new location yet this year, but Stefl said she will continue to make wine as the winery moves into a new chapter.
“The goal right now is to for sure get the tasting room and everything out there as soon as we can, because it’s a better and bigger setting,” she said. “But we’re still open at our Storrs Lake Road location and still having fun events and tastings going on while taking precautions for safety.
“We’re excited to be part of the community.”
Five newcomers and one incumbent are competing to fill three Janesville School Board seats up for election in April.
Incumbent Greg Ardrey filed papers with the school board clerk and is in the running. Fellow board members Dale Thompson and Steve Huth, the current board president, will not seek reelection.
Ardrey said he decided to run again because he feels he has more to give to the district. He is the board treasurer and told The Gazette in December he would focus on those on the lower social and economic end of the district.
“I want to focus on really the students and staff who I would say don’t have the full representation—those that are maybe more socially or economically on the lower end in the district,” he said.
Ardrey was appointed to the board in 2008, elected in 2009 and reelected in 2012, 2015 and 2018.
The other candidates are Liz Paull, Curt Parish, John Hanewall, Jessica Davis and Cathy Burt.
Paull, a 42-year-old mother and Craig High School graduate, currently serves as president of the Marshall Middle School Parent Teacher Association.
She wants more family and student input in district decisions, and she thinks she can find that as a parent.
“My goal isn’t to change things because I have great respect for those who have been serving on the board ... but when vacancies appeared, I just felt like it was important to make sure that families and people with children in the district are represented on the board, and I feel I can do that,” she said.
Parish, 69, is a retired finance worker with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from UW-Madison.
He said the district has been “very good” to his family and two daughters, and the school board gives him a chance to give back.
He has previously been on the Parker High School Booster Board and worked with the district DECA program.
“I believe educating our youth is the most important investment we make, and to provide a proper education we have to support teachers, support staff and the facilities we have,” Parish said. “It’s important to attract and retain quality school staff to attract and retain quality businesses and people.”
Hanewall, a 64-year-old with a background in social work and education, has considered running in the past but decided this was the right time.
Hanewall worked for 20 years at KANDU Industries and Rock County as a social worker before being named director of the Rock County Developmental Disabilities Board. When the county dissolved the board in 2016, he retired. He also has taught at Upper Iowa University and Beloit College.
Hanewall believes he would be a good fit for the board and can represent those who might not always have a voice. He said his Rock County experience will help.
“Having worked with individuals with developmental disabilities and special needs for the better part of my career, I understand the IEP (individualized education plan) process and feel I would be a strong advocate and voice for those people on the school board,” he said.
Hanewall also pointed to his experience managing a $30 million budget for Rock County as a positive, given the budget uncertainty caused by COVID-19 and state aid adjustments.
Davis, 33, has lived in Janesville for seven years. She works in Madison as an employment and retention coordinator with Journey Mental Health Center.
She decided to run because she wants to give back.
“For a while, I kind of thought running for school board or local office would be for someone older or someone with more overall experience, but I just realized, especially with everything going on and that I have a child in the district, and I want to serve and connect with my community. I think I would be a great fit for the school board,” she said.
Davis said she would push for increases in teacher wages and paid time off because that was an issue she heard frequently from teachers when collecting signatures. She said she feels certain COVID-19 has made their jobs harder.
Davis said her other focus would be implementing an antiracism curriculum across the district and providing staff training.
Burt, 60, is a homemaker and baby sitter for her granddaughter.
She said she wants to keep students learning in person.
“I’m really happy that the school board made the decision to bring the kids back, and I’d like to see that stay in place as long as county numbers stay OK,” she said.
Burt said she values offering alternatives to public schools, such as charter and virtual schools.
She also wants to ensure that there isn’t a political agenda behind decisions.
Marlene J. Casey
Johanna M. (Wellnitz) Cash
Lorraine I. (Huffman) Davis
Dr. Gerald R. Druckrey
Betty Lou Drinkwater
Shirley A. Gorz
Erin L. Howard
Richard T. Kingsley
Gerald E. Lindberg Jr.
Holly J. Losching
Maurice D. “Moe” McDonald
William H. Meller
Linda I. Pohl
Robert H. Radtke
Lora Ann Schansberg
Barbara Joyce Williams
Harriett “Vicki” Wilson
The city can expect new faces on the city council in April with three members choosing not to run for reelection.
Four of the seven city council seats are up for grabs. Doug Marklein will attempt to keep his seat, while Sue Conley, Jim Farrell and Tom Wolfe have chosen not to run.
Six candidates are running for the four seats, and Marklein is the only one with experience holding an elected position within the city.
Jack Herndon, Michael Jackson, David Marshick, Heather Miller and Dan Neal are the other five challengers. All are newcomers to Janesville politics. At least three of them will be elected.
Conley announced in November she would not run for reelection after winning a seat on the state Assembly, replacing former Rep. Deb Kolste.
Farrell said he thought eight years on the council was a good period of time and that he made a lot of progress in moving the city forward in that time.
Wolfe had similar sentiments, adding that he waited to make his decision until he knew there was an adequate number of people running to fill all the empty seats. He served four years on the council and previously served nine years on the Janesville School Board.
These six candidates are running for city council.
Herndon, 49, of 404 S. Walnut St., is a drywaller who might be better known as the organizer of Redneck Fest, a summertime festival Herndon used to host at his home. Profits from the festival benefited Easter Seals’ Camp Wawbeek, a camp for people with differing ability levels.
Organizing the festival, which hosted 4,000 people in its final year in 2011, helped prepare Herndon for a position on the council, he said.
City operations are complicated, and Herndon said he wants to help people understand how things work. He wants to inform the community about whom to contact when they have problems.
A lot of people complain about how things work, but few step up to the plate to do something about it, Herndon said.
Jackson, 73, of 2112 N. Wright Road, is a retired pastor who worked at New Life Assembly of God in Janesville for 16 years. He is a native Kansan who now calls Janesville his hometown.
The former pastor has dedicated much of his life to improving access to health care through various organizations. He also started the church’s annual Freedom Fest.
He chose to run because he wants to be able to identify and fulfill the needs of Janesville residents.
Jackson has five issues he wants to address: coronavirus pandemic recovery, aiding small businesses, creating affordable housing, maintaining fiscal responsibility and job creation.
Marklein, 65, of 3865 Redhawk Court, has been on the council for eight years. He said he is running again because his goal was to serve 10 years. If elected, it would likely be his last term.
With several council members not seeking reelection, Marklein said he thought it was important to run again and possibly provide experience to a new council.
Marklein prides himself on being a problem-solver. He said he does not seek specific issues to tackle but rather works to form solutions to the problems that present themselves.
Marshick, 54, of 4255 Saratoga Drive, is the senior vice president of commercial banking at First National Bank and Trust in Janesville.
He has spent the last 15 years working as a booster for downtown revitalization, which he said will be a priority if he is elected.
After he spent so much time aiding the downtown, Marshick said he thought the council was the next step in his community involvement.
Marshick describes himself as thoughtful and said every decision he would make on the council would be balanced and well thought-out.
Miller, 51, of 2023 Joliet St., is a former police officer who has lived in Janesville for 24 years. She currently works as a driving instructor and volunteers with ECHO.
Coming from a law enforcement background and military family, Miller said she is a big proponent of consistency and wants to see the city’s ordinances applied and enforced consistently across the board.
People have concerns and don’t know where to go, Miller said, and she wants to make sure people know how to get assistance.
As a south-side resident, Miller hopes to be a champion for south-side revitalization, especially a grocery store, an issue that has been brought up among city officials dozens of times since Pick ‘n Save closed in 2017.
Neal, 38, of 115 S. Garfield Ave., is a regional construction manager for fire protection at JF Ahren in Madison and is a native Janesville resident.
Politics have always interested Neal, he said, and he believes the city council is a good way for him to get involved in a nonpartisan way.
Neal is the social chair for Forward Janesville and has been involved with the organization since 2000.
He said he hopes to help businesses move past the pandemic, and he vows to show up and be a voice for the public.
A Wisconsin prosecutor declined Tuesday to file charges against a white police officer who shot a Black man in the back in Kenosha, concluding he couldn’t disprove the officer’s contention that he acted in self-defense because he feared the man would stab him.
The decision, met with swift criticism from civil rights advocates and some public officials, threatened to reignite protests that rocked the city after the Aug. 23 shooting that left Jacob Blake paralyzed. Gov. Tony Evers called the decision “further evidence that our work is not done” and called for people to work together for equity. Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who is Black, was more pointed on Twitter: “I wish I could say that I’m shocked. It’s another instance in a string of misapplications of justice.”
Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley said investigators concluded Blake was carrying a knife when police responded to a report he was trying to steal a car. Officer Rusten Sheskey said he “feared Jacob Blake was going to stab him with the knife” as he tried to stop Blake from fleeing the scene.
“I do not believe the state ... would be able to prove that the privilege of self-defense is not available,” Graveley said.
The shooting of Blake, captured on bystander video, turned the nation’s spotlight on Wisconsin during a summer marked by protests over police brutality and racism. More than 250 people were arrested during protests in the days that followed, including then-17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse of Antioch, Illinois, a self-styled medic with an assault rifle who is charged in the fatal shootings of two men and the wounding of a third.
Blake family members expressed anger about the charging decision.
“This is going to impact this city and this state and this nation for many years to come,” Justin Blake, an uncle, said. “Unless the people rise up and do what they’re supposed to do. This is a government for the people by the people, correct? We talk about this constitution everybody’s supposed to be so committed to and yet we stand in the state that has the most convictions of African Americans in the United States. So they’re weighing heavy on one side of justice, but they’re allowing police officers to rain down terror on our communities. It’s injust.”
Ben Crump, an attorney for Blake’s family, said in a statement the decision “further destroys trust in our justice system” and said he would proceed with a lawsuit. In a later tweet, he questioned whether Blake threatened Sheskey with a knife, saying “nowhere does the video footage show a knife extended and aimed to establish the requisite intent.”
A federal civil rights investigation into Blake’s shooting is still underway. Matthew Krueger, the U.S. attorney for Wisconsin’s Eastern District, said the Department of Justice will make its own charging decision.
The Blake shooting happened three months after George Floyd died while being restrained by police officers in Minneapolis, a death that was captured on bystander video and sparked outrage and protests that spread across the United States and beyond. The galvanized Black Lives Matter movement put a spotlight on inequitable policing and became a fault line in politics, with President Donald Trump criticizing protesters and aggressively pressing a law-and-order message that he sought to capitalize on in Wisconsin and other swing states.
Kenosha braced for renewed protests ahead of the charges, with concrete barricades and metal fencing surrounding the county courthouse, plywood protecting many businesses and the mayor granted power to impose curfews. Evers activated 500 National Guard troops to assist.
As temperatures dipped near freezing Tuesday evening, about 20 protesters gathered and marched in an area north of downtown, chanting “No justice, no peace.” About 15 cars, some honking their horns, followed.
Vaun Mayer, a 33-year-old activist from Milwaukee who is Black, drove to Kenosha to protest. He said he didn’t expect the officer to be charged, calling Graveley’s decision just the latest in a line of prosecutors failing to charge police officers in Wisconsin.
“We’re used to this and we didn’t expect anything different than this,” he said.
At a downtown park near the courthouse where hundreds gathered in the days after Blake was shot, there was no sign of any large, organized protests. Abdullah Schabazz, 36, who said he came from nearby Waukegan, Illinois, to show solidarity with the Blake family, blamed the weather.
Kris Coleman, 36, of Kenosha, stood nearby livestreaming National Guard troops manning an intersection. He said the city appeared to be better prepared than it was during the summer. “And I’m happy,” he said.
Graveley told reporters during a two-hour presentation Tuesday afternoon that investigators determined that the events leading up to the shooting began when the mother of Blake’s children called police and said Blake was about to drive off in her car. Officers determined en route that Blake had a felony warrant out for sexual assault.
They arrived to find Blake placing the couple’s three children in the back seat of the woman’s SUV. Graveley said officers had no choice but to arrest him since he was wanted. He said Blake resisted, fighting with the officers as they tried to handcuff him. Officers used a stun gun on him three times to no effect.
Noble Wray, a Black former police chief and a use-of-force expert who reviewed the investigation, said Blake had a knife that apparently fell to the ground during the struggle. Blake picked it up and officers disengaged and drew their guns. Blake then tried to get into the SUV, Wray said.
“Any officer worth their salt, they’re not going to let someone leave under these circumstances,” Wray said. “This is the stuff Amber Alerts are made of.”
Sheskey grabbed the back of Blake’s shirt, Graveley said. Blake turned and moved the knife toward Sheskey, the officer told investigators, leading him to believe his life was in danger, the district attorney said.
Sheskey fired seven times, hitting Blake in the back four times and in the side three times, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Graveley said the shots in the side show Blake had twisted toward the officer.
Graveley showed reporters an enlarged photo of what he said was Blake’s knife, adding that Blake acknowledged to investigators he had it. The district attorney walked reporters through how he would have prosecuted the case, saying jurors would have had to put themselves in Sheskey’s position and that the officer’s self-defense claims would have held up given the circumstances of the case.
Jeffrey Cramer, a former federal prosecutor who has prosecuted officers, said Graveley presented a compelling case that showed why charges are not appropriate.
“There isn’t anyone who would like to be in that officer’s shoes—but in that moment, he used what I feel was reasonable force to end the threat,” Cramer said. For those who disagree, he said, “What should he have done, let him drive away with a child in the back, let themselves get stabbed? … The only answer reasonably is—they need to defend themselves.”
The officers were not equipped with body cameras.
Sheskey, 31, has been the subject of five internal investigations since he joined the Kenosha department in 2013, including three reprimands for crashing his squad car three times over three years. He has also earned 16 awards, letters or formal commendations, his personnel file shows.
Rittenhouse, who was among armed people who took to Kenosha streets during the violence and said he was there to help protect businesses, faces multiple charges including intentional homicide. Bystander video showed Rittenhouse shooting Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and wounding a third man. Rittenhouse, who is white, has claimed the three men attacked him and he fired in self-defense. Conservatives across the country have been raising money for his legal team. Rittenhouse was 17 at the time of the shooting.
Rittenhouse pleaded not guilty to all charges at a hearing Tuesday.
Prosecutors dropped the sexual assault charge against Blake in November as part of deal in which he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct. He was sentenced to two years of probation.