Making Democracy Work Award

Making Democracy Work Award

Since 2010 the League of Women Voters - Whitewater Area has annually recognized a community leader who has demonstrated through their professional work or volunteerism, ways in which to improve the Whitewater community. The League then honors these exemplary citizens with a Making Democracy Work award, presented with great tribute and celebration at the League's annual holiday gathering in early December.

The League's Making Democracy Work award was developed in 2010 for the purpose of honoring the civic work of individuals in our community during the 90th anniversary year of the formation of the national league and passage of the 19th amendment in 1920. We quickly realized the lasting value and importance of making such a tribute an annual event because there are so many Whitewater citizens deserving of this recognition.

In selecting each year's honoree, the League looks for individuals who have shared and implemented a vision of making Whitewater a safer and fairer place in which to live and those who have mobilized others to work with them to affect positive change in our community. These values exemplify the spirit and the mission of the League. Nominations are submitted from the League's membership to the board, which through consensus makes the final selection. Honorees are invited along with one guest to attend the League's holiday gathering held in their honor. They are presented with a unique certificate and speeches are made in their honor from those who have worked alongside them.

To submit a candidate for consideration, complete the online nomination form by November 1. If you would rather complete a paper version of the form, download it from our website. If you have questions regarding the nomination process, please contact Elizabeth A. Farrey, Publicity Chair, League of Women Voters - Whitewater Area at farreyea24 [at]


Kristine Zaballos

The 2019 winner of the award for Making Democracy Work is Kristine Zaballos, longtime Whitewater resident, who has been instrumental in making improvements in services provided for residents in need. In addition, Kristine is a founder of the City Market, a year-round effort to bring food and the community together!


Miguel Aranda

This year has been quite a historic midterm election year and the prevalent theme for many communities and Leagues across the country has been voter registration and education. There are many within our League as well as our community who have truly stepped up to assist voters in this regard. One such member of our community is Miguel Aranda, who has worked diligently with voter registration and education among the Hispanic community both on and off campus. Miguel and appeared on Telemundo Wisconsin to encourage voters to register and vote.

In Miguel's own words:


I am glad to say I have grown up in Whitewater. My education from grade school to the University level has all been obtained in Whitewater, and I am currently in UW-Whitewater's MBA Program. I live in Whitewater with my wife Fabi and my two children, Evelia (3) and Vicente (1). Fun facts: Vicente is the name of a famous Mexican singer (Vicente Fernandez) and a former Mexican President (Vicente Fox). I work on campus as a Financial Specialist for the University Center.

If the surname Aranda sounds familiar, my father's side of the family all lives in or near the Whitewater area. My aunt Eva owns the famous La Preferida Mexican store and restaurant in downtown Whitewater, which has been in business for 10 plus years and they make the best tacos in town. Several of my uncles and aunts own the Aranda clothing store - also in downtown Whitewater.

I first got engaged in civic engagement during my undergraduate career as the President of the University Latino club. One main accomplishment of the group that year was our extensive outreaching about higher education to the surround Latino community. We visited high school students in Elkhorn, Walworth, Delavan, Whitewater, and many others to talk about the importance of continuing their education. For leading the group on outreaching, I was nominated in the Janesville Gazette as a "People Who Matter."

In 2012, in-state tuition was appealed for DREAMers and I started to work closely with Dr. Anne Stinson to help out these talented students who found themselves in this unfortunate scenario. Since then, I also become a member, an organization that is pro-immigrant.

After the 2016 election, a handful of University Latino students approached me about their frustrations. To help them, collectively we decided to pursue creating a Voto Latino chapter in Wisconsin. An organization that focuses on getting young Latino voters to register to vote, and to engage them in the civic process. The Voto Latino Wisconsin chapter became an acting force in the 2018 midterms.

Growing up, teachers, family, and friends, have always stated to me that I have characteristics of a good leader. I never thought much of it until more recently. I have always waited, and continue to wait, for the right person to run for local office that I can closely align my values and beliefs with. If that time does not come soon, I might find myself attempting to fill that voice.


The LWV Whitewater-Area board is delighted announced that Lacey Reichwald, UW-Whitewater alumna and owner of The SweetSpot Café, and James Hartwick, Curriculum and Instruction Professor at UW-Whitewater, have both been named to receive the League's 2017 Making Democracy Work award. The nominees highlight the dual importance of having UW-Whitewater in our community by demonstrating the positive potential of its students and influence of its faculty.

Lacey Reichwald graduated from UW-Whitewater in 2008 with a degree in Interpersonal Communication. She chose to stay and invest in the Whitewater community, which, as a student, she grew to love. In 2008, she purchased The SweetSpot Café, which is now a well-recognized social hub of downtown Whitewater, where town and gown commingle in a safe, enjoyable, and family-friendly environment. She expanded her business in 2013 with the opening of The SweetSpot Bakehouse. Most recently, Reichwald spearheaded the formation of the Whitewater Grocery Co., responding to the need for a local grocery after Sentry closed its doors almost two years ago. Reichwald's successful and promising leadership demonstrates the impact one student with vision and compassion can have in our community.

James Hartwick has lived and worked in Whitewater for the past 15 years; he is a staunch defender of democracy, of education and grassroots organizing, and of the common good. As a Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at UW-Whitewater, he prepares future social studies teachers, who in turn prepare their students to become thoughtful and engaged citizens and participants in democracy. His scholarly writing addresses how to engage students in deliberating controversial public issues.

As the Faculty Senate Chair (2015-16 and 2016-17) and faculty leader, he has been a defender of shared governance, of faculty tenure rights, and of a quality comprehensive university. In 2011, as a part of the Truth to Power Pilgrimage, he walked with colleagues to the state capitol, carrying a letter from the UW-W faculty to express concerns and to raise awareness over issues and cuts facing the university.

He is the co-advisor for the PEACE student group, which shows monthly documentaries, and hosted a 2011 Occupy Whitewater event, which was designed to raise awareness of the many issues and inequities facing Wisconsin.

Hartwick has been a leader of the Whitewater Chapter of Move to Amend and served for two years as the state co-director of Move to Amend. With the help of the PEACE student group and Move to Amend, Whitewater (84% in favor) and Fort Atkinson (77% in favor) passed referenda calling for a Constitutional Amendment to overturn the Citizens United Decision. He was a founding member and leader of the Historic Strain Park Neighborhood Association, where he helped to pass a chronic nuisance ordinances and added zoning protections in an effort to build a stable, positive, and connected community.


Greg Stewart

The recipient of the 2016 Making Democracy Work Award is Greg Stewart, a social studies teacher at Whitewater High School and in his 27th year of teaching. In 2015, Greg developed a video contest for Whitewater High School students on the importance of voting, voter registration, and the new Photo ID law. The project resulted in 23 video entries and at last year's dinner, we premiered the three winning videos and celebrated the students and their creative work. This year we honor and recognize Greg Stewart for the work his does every day, teaching young students in our community the importance of democracy and how it works.

Stewart is a member of the Wisconsin Geographic Alliance Steering Committee and recipient of the Walmart Teacher of the Year award for 2001.


Marion Burrows

The League board unanimously voted to honor League member Marion Burrows with the 2015 Making Democracy Work Award for her years of service as a welcoming and informative face of democracy in the Armory on Election Day in her role as Special Election Inspector since the early 1990s, and her commitment to make Whitewater an enriching community in which to live through decades of volunteer work with social service and cultural organizations. Marion's kind and helpful demeanor and wealth of election knowledge have benefited thousands of Whitewater citizens entering the Armory to vote. She made sure they had what they needed before entering the poll, confirmed voters' Ward and Aldermanic District designations, assisted with curbside voting, and substituted at polling tables when needed. For the past 15 years, Marion spearheaded voter registration needs at Fairhaven and Hearthstone, providing voter registration services to new residents and assisting with the absentee voting process.


Emma Lou Sederholm

In 1964, Emma Lou was one of several community women who worked together to establish a local league in Whitewater. Of all our "founding mothers," Emma Lou alone remains a member of this league to this day. Many have since moved, many, sadly have passed away. We honor Emma Lou for her founding work and 50-year commitment to our league and, in doing so, we also give our heartfelt gratitude and recognition to the entire core group of organizers.


Anjie Kokan, Jorge Islas, Marge Fischer, Sandra Heyer

This year the League is presenting its 4th annual Making Democracy Work award to not one person but four individuals who make up a team of teachers in Whitewater's English as a Second Language (ESL) program. They include Program Administrator Sandra Heyer, Level One Teacher Jorge Islas, Level Two and Citizenship Class Teacher Anjie Kokan, and Level Three Teacher Marge Fischer. Congratulations to all four teachers, who work passionately toward the goal of literacy and citizenship. Their record of accomplishment is very impressive. Every single student who has gone through the ESL program and then taken the required testing for citizenship has passed the tests and become a naturalized US citizen. The program is open to immigrants from any country and has assisted many within Whitewater's Latino community transition to English proficiency and citizenship.

The honorees were presented with their awards at the Holiday Dinner at the Whitewater Country Club on December 1.


Michele Smith

Michele Smith, Whitewater City Clerk, was honored in 2012. Since 2000 Michele has diligently worked behind-the-scenes at City Hall and at the polls on election days making sure democracy works in Whitewater. In 2012 Michele steered the Whitewater community through an unprecedented six elections in a contentious political climate, remaining tirelessly nonpartisan, calm, accurate, and fair in her administration.


Marilyn Kienbaum

Marilyn Kienbaum (1926-2012) was honored in 2011 for her many years of service as a member of the Whitewater Common Council and selfless dedication to those less fortunate within our community through her volunteer work as Director of the Whitewater Food Pantry. Marilyn actively promoted democracy in Whitewater everyday by participating in it. She is fondly missed.


Jim Stewart

Jim Stewart was honored in 2010 for his visionary work developing his website, terms served as a member of the Whitewater Common Council, and years served on the Whitewater School Board (1981-2002). Like the League, the was grassroots in conception and facilitates social interaction. Through his website Jim created a community bulletin board, keeping all of us informed about everything Whitewater.