Kenoshan You Need to Know: Matt Collins

Name: Matthew Collins

Organization / Place of Employment: Kenosha County Parks Division

Title: Assistant Parks Director

  1. How long have you lived and/or worked in Kenosha County?

June is my one year anniversary working for the Kenosha County Parks Division.

  1. Describe a day in the life of Matt (as it pertains to you personally, or your career):

My typical day is nothing that typical.  Although I am administrative as my main work responsibilities, my office becomes the parks I manage.  My career cannot be compared with any other occupation and I am truly appreciative that the Kenosha County Executive, Jim Kreuser gave me the opportunity to oversee Kenosha County’s Park System.

As for my personal life, I have a beautiful wife and will be celebrating our five-year anniversary this July. We also have an energetic, smart two year old son…my mini-me, Mason.  As a family, we love spending as much time outdoors as possible and we are constantly grilling out and spending quality time with our neighbors.

  1. What makes Kenosha County a great place to work and play?

Obviously I would say that our Parks are the best places where our residents can come to work and play!  Although I may be bias, I truly believe that we have THE BEST parks in Wisconsin. The Kenosha County Parks provides something for everyone including:

  • Nine miles of maintained mountain bike trails
  • Top rated beaches at Silver Lake and Old Settlers Park
  • Beautiful nature trails at Bristol Woods
  • Environmental education at the Pringle Nature Center
  • Over 14 miles of multiuse trails
  • Top rated golf courses at Petrifying Springs and Brighton Dale Links
  • 27 holes of disc golf at Fox River and 18 holes at Silver Lake Park
  • Kayaking over 11 miles through the County on the Fox River Water Trail
  • Visiting the historic buildings and pristine landscaping along Lake Michigan’s shoreline at the Kemper Center
  • Taking your dog to all three off-leash dog exercise areas at Petrifying Springs, Old Settlers and KD Park
  • Walking over 4 miles around KD Park to take in the beautiful views of one of the cleanest lakes in Southeastern Wisconsin
  • Ten reservable pavilions to host parties and events
  • Numerous locations to grill and picnic
  1. Last APP you downloaded?

Quick Scan.  This helps me be “that guy” to always try to get the lowest price when shopping.

  1. What is your favorite Kenosha County event/activity?

My favorite event has to be Oktoberfest at Old Settlers Park.  Each year, the Parks sponsors this event with our not for profit partners, Oktoberfest, Inc. to not only invite the public to be a part of this free annual event, but also raise funds to build a bandshell at the park.  This year’s event will be on September 10th starting with a run/walk in the morning followed by music, food, kids games, adult beverages, and fireworks.

  1. What is one thing you would like to see improved in Kenosha County?

I am always one to look forward and be visionary on the future of our community.  After I took on my new role with the Parks, I did notice that there truly is a divide in our County on the “I”.  This literal and figurative barrier needs to be broken since there are so many qualities on both sides of the line.  It would be great to have more people appreciate our community and take time to travel the entire County to take in more sites and remove some perceptions.  Organizations such as Y-Link offer a way to communicate to all young professionals on different experiences that can be offered throughout Kenosha County.

  1. What about Kenosha are you really proud of?

I am extremely proud that our community has taken a stance to be on the forefront for the creation of jobs and bringing more business opportunities to this area.  Our County Government and County Executive Jim Kreuser has made this a priority and am really proud to serve our constituents and bring a higher quality of life to all of our new businesses and members of the community.

  1. Who inspires you locally?

This June, Jon Rudie will be retiring as Parks Director.  It has truly been an honor to work with Jon this last year and try to learn as much as possible before taking over his responsibilities.  Inspire isn’t strong enough of a word to express my appreciation for his ability to be empathetic, patient, inspiring and a true leader in our community. Every day I worked with Jon made me feel that I had been offered my dream job to work for such a great organization.  It will be really hard to see him retire soon and am grateful that I was able to learn so much from one of the greatest Parks Directors in our State.

  1. Best advice for other young professionals?

Always have goals, write them down, review them daily, and don’t focus on tasks that do not lead to your vision.  Also – Be sure to make a conscious effort to analyze the leaders in your organization and ask how they got to their level.  These people always inspire me to emulate their strengths and motivate me to constantly push myself to become a better leader not only in the workplace but in my personal life as well.

Kenoshan you Need to Know: Megan Bernardy-Wells

Megan Bernardy-WellsOrganization / Place of Employment: Herzing University

Title: Degree Up & Community Relations Coordinator

How long have you lived and/or worked in Kenosha County? I grew up in Kenosha and graduated from Bradford High School (Go Red Devils!) in 2001.  A basketball scholarship took me to Springfield, Missouri for college, where I stayed until 2011.

Describe a day in the life of Megan: Well, one of the things I love about my current situation is that every day is different.  I recently took on a new role managing the Degree Up partnership that Herzing University has with Gateway Technical College (GTC).  We’ve teamed up with them to give their grads an opportunity to continue on with their bachelor’s degree while still taking classes at GTC that count towards that higher degree.  On any given day, you can find me at one of their campuses meeting with professors, students, and staff.  Outside of work, I’m the director of a human trafficking awareness organization, Hope Run Kenosha.  We’ve planned a 5k run/2 mile walk in June the last 2 years and have also put on a free human trafficking forum in March for those in the community looking for more information on this topic.  I also sit on the Kenosha Human Trafficking Coalition, with other professionals in our community committed to combatting this issue. After all of that is said and done, I try to squeeze in some time to spend with my amazing husband, Andy.

What makes Kenosha County a great place to work and play? For work, I would definitely say collaboration!  I love how eager organizations are to work together for the benefit of everyone in the community.  I’m in a couple networking groups through the Chamber and TEMPO Kenosha and the general interest in the professional success of their peers is so encouraging and motivating.  For play, I’m a big sports girl, and love basketball & tennis as well as playing sand volleyball a couple nights a week in the summer at Rivals.  I also enjoy Twilight Jazz at Anderson Park, the Harbor Market, Peanut Butter & Jam, and all of the amazing places in town to get pizza.  Great, now I’m hungry.  J

Are there any trends in higher education that are particularly exciting? I think a big focus right now is maximizing transfer credit and making it easier for students to get done as quickly as possible.  Traditional higher education is great, but there are many people in our community that have families and jobs and other responsibilities but still have that desire to better themselves through higher education.  An example of how Herzing is doing this would be our dual enrollment for our master’s programs.  Students can take master’s level courses during their final year of their bachelor’s.  These credits count towards both degrees and don’t cost the student anything extra.  After graduating with their bachelor’s, they already have almost a third of their master’s done.  How cool is that?!

What is your favorite Kenosha County event/activity? As a sports fan, lately, I would say I really look forward to Kingfish games in the summer months.  It’s nice to have something local that is family friendly, reasonably priced, and generally a great time.   The Kingfish seem extremely invested in giving back to the Kenosha County community and that makes them that much more appealing.   I just wish they would stop making the fried cookie dough, because it’s affecting my waistline!  Seriously…so good.

What is one thing you would like to see improved in Kenosha County? I think the thing I would like to see improved is already heading in that direction- the downtown.  There is so much potential in that area for small businesses and for our community to have a place to come together for work and play.  I love seeing the new restaurants and shops opening up down there, but there are still a lot of vacant buildings with so much potential.  Some of my favorite restaurants in Kenosha are downtown (Wine Knot, Captain Mikes, Villa D’ Carlo), and places like Sandy’s Poppers, M Again reMakes, Jockey, and Talulah Tattoo, are all places I enjoy and would love to see even more of downtown.

What about Kenosha are you really proud of? A couple things actually!  As I mentioned before, I moved to Missouri for a few years, and one thing that drew me back was the Lakefront.  I think many can agree how beautiful and calming the downtown area is.  I personally love riding my bike down there in the summer, participating in the Farmer’s Market and heading down there on those stressful days that I just need a calming atmosphere.  Additionally I’m proud of the growth and industry in this city.  There are so many jobs, real estate, development, and overall growth.  I’m proud to be a Kenosha County resident!

Who inspires you locally? So many people!  But if I have to pick one, I would say Tracy Nielsen of United Way.  I’ve gotten to know her through various networking events and partnerships and her enthusiasm and joy she has towards her job, peers, and overall community is intoxicating.  She, like myself, is a “yes!” person.  Those are the type of people I want to be around and the type of people that influence this community in a positive way.

Kenoshan You Need to Know – Erin Merritt

Erin Merritt, Owner, Pharmacist, Modern Apothecary

How long have you lived and/or worked in Kenosha County?

I was born and raised in Kenosha.  I attended Friedens Lutheran School, McKinley Middle School, and Tremper High School.  I attended UW-Parkside for the majority of many undergraduate courses. I had to fit in all of my prerequisites for pharmacy school into two years, so I also took courses at UW-Milwaukee, Carthage College, Gateway, and an online public speaking course (weird, I know).  I went to pharmacy school at Midwestern University-Chicago College of Pharmacy in Downers Grove, IL.  After graduation, I moved back to the north side of Kenosha.

Describe a day in the life of Erin (as it pertains to you personally, or your career):

My husband and I have been foster parents to two fantastic children for almost 4 years now.  After I get Elijah on the bus to kindergarten and Sierra dropped off for Pre-K, I get to work around 8:15.  I am currently the only pharmacist right now, as we have only been open for a couple of months, so I am here anytime the store is open. My day can run from filing prescriptions, compounding medications, and counseling patients to dusting shelves, helping patients find a certain product on the shelves, and running the cash register.  I also have to deal with the back end of the operation including dealing with insurance companies for reimbursement, employee payroll, and ordering stock for the front of the store as well as prescription medications and raw materials for compounding.  My favorite part of my job is helping patients.  It is incredibly rewarding to have a patient come back and tell you that something you did helped in some way, whether that be monetarily, physically, or just helping them better understand and control their disease.  Even though I work long hours and am here 6 days a week, I am incredibly happy and wouldn’t change a thing.  At the end of the day after we close, I go home and tuck my kids into bed, talk to my husband for an hour or so, go to bed, and do it all over again.

What makes Kenosha County a great place to work and play?

Kenosha has a fabulous lakefront and is conveniently located between Milwaukee and Chicago.  I also both love and hate that everyone knows everyone in Kenosha.  I love it most of the time, but hate it when I am trying to run into the grocery store in sweatpants when I am gross and sweaty and/or sick for a gallon of milk and see at least 15 people I know and have to chat with before I make it out.  Kenosha also has fantastic local restaurants and great local parks.

Why did you select downtown Kenosha for your new business, Modern Apothecary?

A few reasons, first there was a need for a pharmacy downtown.  With more and more people living and working downtown, a pharmacy in the area is a huge convenience.  I also wanted the pharmacy to be unique and have a vintage appeal.   I felt that the best place to accomplish that would be an area with character and a diverse mix of people.  Our downtown not only has a good assortment of businesses, historic buildings, but a great lakefront to go along with it.  I love that I can see the Southport Lighthouse from the front windows of the pharmacy.  Lastly, I have always loved this building. Prior to pharmacy school, I dreamed of having my own pharmacy and picked out this building as my location.  It is a beautiful building and I loved the fact that it was home to several pharmacies for more than fifty years. We have gotten so many wonderful stories

What is your favorite Kenosha County event/activity?

Any of the downtown summer activities…The Harbor Market, Kenosha Pops concerts, Peanut Butter & Jam Concerts, Taste of Wisconsin, and the list goes on!  Winter events downtown are fun too, I just prefer warmer weather.

What is one thing you would like to see improved in Kenosha County?

I would like to see more people appreciate what Kenosha has to offer. I think that for a long time, people were really excited about Kenosha being large enough to finally get the chain stores and restaurants, which, admittedly, are convenient and nice to have.  When I went to school in Illinois, I lived in a western suburb of Chicago. Any chain store or restaurant imaginable was located within 15 minutes, but if you wanted something local, they were few and far between. I would have done some crazy things, possibly donating a kidney, to have a good pizza, Italian bread or Chinese food while I was there. If I wanted to eat at a non-chain restaurant or shop at locally-owned store, I would have to go into Chicago.  However, in Kenosha, we have so many fantastic local business and restaurants.  The best part is you don’t have to drive 45 minutes or pay big city prices!

What about Kenosha are you most proud of?

I have been really impressed with how welcoming and supportive people have been since I have opened. I am proud to part of a community that is big enough to have chain stores, but small enough to want to see local businesses survive.  It has also been great to see people appreciate the history and nostalgia of the building.  It has been so much fun to listen stories of people who used to live and/or work in the neighborhood and remember this as a pharmacy.

Who inspires you locally?

I have drawn inspiration from many people. It would be hard to choose just one.  My family and friends have been incredibly supportive throughout this entire process. They are also willing to tell me when I am wrong (even if I might be a little defensive and irritable for a little bit) and have guided me towards ideas and in directions I would have never thought of on my own. I also draw inspiration from many of the successful women business owners in Kenosha.