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Board of Directors

David Benson pic3.jpg

David Benson
26461 320th St
Bigelow, MN 56117
507-370-2196 (cell)

David was a Nobles County Commissioner for 20 years, serving on local and regional Extension Committees. He was a member of the Association of MN Counties (AMC) Extension Committee where he received the President's Award in 2012. David was recognized by the MN Department of Health's State Community Health Services Advisory Committee as a Friend of Public Health in 2010. David and spouse have managed a beef cattle and sheep operation for over 20 years, for past 14 years they produced food grade soybeans and small grains.



Bob Bonawitz
2525 7th Ave SE
Willmar, MN 56201
320-444-0634 (cell)

Bob, originally from Moorhead, moved from the Twin Cities to Willmar so that he and his wife Donna could retire near her relatives. Since moving, Bob has devoted his time to teaching, counseling as a member of SCORE, consulting, and volunteering. He served as president of the Willmar Municipal Utilities Commission and a member of the Safe Avenues Board of Directors. Bob serves on the SWP board because he believes in the scope and mission of the organization. Bob also enjoys serving as a SWP board member because it requires active participation by all members of the board.


RonC.jpgRon Carlson
5048 Co. Rd 9 NE
Willmar, MN 56201

Ron is a retired educator who taught English/communications at Willmar Senior High School following military service in Ft. Knox, Kentucky, and Korea. He also taught night school in an alternative learning setting developing curriculum and serving on various leadership teams and was a speech and debate coach and judge for many years. He has been active on various boards including water and lake associations, church, Kiwanis and Safe Avenues/Shelter House. As a long-time lake resident, he has a strong interest in water quality issues, the spread of invasive species and the economic impact of tourism in southwest Minnesota.

AnnD.jpgAnn Delgehausen
581 Grand Ave., #5
St. Paul, MN 55102

Ann moved to Benson in 2006 and quickly became active in the community, joining the Swift County Rural Development Finance Authority board and the West Central Partnership board in the same year. She is a book editor and publishing consultant and owns with two partners a small business, Trio Bookworks, which adheres to sustainability principles and a collaborative management model. She has experience on other boards and community organizations including the Mud Lake Neighborhood Association, the Midtown Greenway Coalition, and the Lyndale Neighborhood Association. Ann returned to St. Paul in 2009, but she maintains relationships and works on projects in western Minnesota.

DeeAnnG.jpgDeeAnn Gieseke
421 1st Ave North
Sleepy Eye, MN 56085
507-227-7733 (cell)

DeeAnn's roots are in Brown County, through living in Springfield and Sleepy Eye. Her recent work experience is in Watonwan County serving as Coordinator for the Family Service Collaborative with a focus on early intervention and prevention for area youth. She has served on a variety of local, regional and state committees: County Community Education, Welcome Baby, Family Literacy and Youth Development, the State Health Improvement Plan (SHIP) serving on the local and regional Community Leadership Teams that includes Cottonwood, Jackson, Faribault, Martin and Watonwan Counties. DeeAnn is a Life Style Coach, Spring Forest Qigong l and Master Healer and presents for local, regional and state conferences on the topic of Mindfulness. Her past involvements include Building Alliances, Intercultural Communities Uniting (ICU), Horizons -reducing rural poverty, InCommons - Art of Hosting and U of MN Extension U-Lead Academy.

LindaM.jpgLinda Meschke
3824 Cedar Creek Court
Fairmont, MN 56031
507-236-0989 (cell)

Linda is the President and founder of a Minnesota nonprofit based in Fairmont called Rural Advantage.  With her partners, she started Rural Advantage in 2003 to identify, develop and apply solutions that are comprehensive, rather than single issue, resulting in more effective change. Linda works at the intersection of sustainable agriculture, environment and rural communities including water quality issues relative to agriculture, local foods, and community development. Growing up on a beef farm in north central Minnesota, she developed a fondness for agriculture and being outdoors. She has experience as a vocational agriculture instructor, a farm partner, working with local government on water planning and environmental programs, and as agricultural inspector and director of the Blue Earth River Basin initiative. She is a change agent who enjoys developing forward thinking concepts that lead to a better society in the long term.

DavidM.jpgDavid Mulla
1991 Upper Buford Circle
439 Borlaug Hall
St. Paul, MN 55108
612-625-6721 (work)

David is a professor with the U of M Department of Soil, Water, and Climate. David received a B.S. in Earth Science form the University of California in 1979, and obtained M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Agronomy from Purdue University. He was the Professor of Soil Physics at Washington State University, where he started his career in 1983. Since 1995 he has been a Professor and W.E. Larson Chair for Soil & Water Resources at the University of Minnesota. Research and interest in water quality issues and regional economic viability in the Minnesota River basin led Dr. Mulla to join the South West Partnership in 2009.

MarieO.jpgMarie Ostby
8612 DeCathelon Dr.
Spicer, MN 56288

Marie grew up on a small dairy farm in Stearns County, influencing her interest in agriculture and the environment. She has degrees in applied sciences and computer sciences and business. For the past 30 years, she has owned and operated a computer consulting business. Marie has a number of leadership and board experiences including Dovre Township Supervisor and President of the Willmar League of Women Voters. Marie serves on the board because she enjoys collaborating with other citizens in working towards achieving the goal of sustaining our natural resources. Marie believes that natural resources should be sustained in part for the enjoyment of future generations.

RyanP.jpgRyan Pesch
715 11th St N, Ste 107C
Moorhead, MN 56560
218 770-4398 (work)
218 236-2270 (cell)

Ryan Pesch is an Extension Educator who works with communities and organizations on issues of economic development, tourism, and business development.  He delivers Extension programs and conducts research projects related to community issues throughout West Central MN. One of his primary research interests is in the marketing and market analysis of local foods. Ryan lives in Lida Township (Ottertail County) with his wife and three kids. Together they own and operate Lida Farm, raising produce, chicken, and lamb for direct sale to customers through a CSA program, at the Lakes Area Farmers Market in Detroit Lakes, and at a roadside stand on-farm.

LeroyP.jpgLeroy Petersen
9095 50th St. NE
Kerkhoven, MN 56252

Leroy (Lee) is a life-long resident of Chippewa County. He owned and operated a diversified, commercial production agriculture business, as well as other related business pursuits and subsequent employment in seed research as project manager and senior research station technician. Leroy did his undergraduate and graduate studies work in general and international business management, where he holds BS and MBA degrees from Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall and Carlson School of Management University of Minnesota-Twin cities. Lee has a strong interest in rural, sustainable development and is currently the Agriculture and Renewable Energy Specialist for the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission. ​Previous experience has been as agriculture expert in Afghanistan and Pakistan for the United States Department of Agriculture Foreign Agriculture Service and Shelter for Life International, as well as other volunteer activities in Mexico, Hong Kong, and India.

SunnyR.jpgSunny (Joyce) Ruthchild
14888 Bunker Ave
Marshall, MN 56258

Sunny Ruthchild is a community activist concerned with issues of health (both of people and the planet) as a by-product of human life style. The production, marketing, and consumption of table-quality local foods are important to Sunny. She serves on the Community Leadership Team for SWHHS, was founder of the Walnut Grove Farmers Market, and lobbies for financial support to purchase locally sourced foodstuffs in an appropriately available food program for children. A self-employed grower of organic perennial foods such as apples, garlic and herbs, asparagus, and berries, Sunny also serves on Redwood SWCD and RCRCA conservation boards. Sunny is also working on a community conservation project for the City of Walnut Grove. She enjoys speaking about the importance of preserving aquifers and harvesting atmospheric water and precipitation as well as the need to keep surface waters pure, and the importance of composting and recycling.

TobyS.jpgToby Spanier
1424 E College Drive, Suite 100
Marshall, MN 56258
507-562-1888 (work)
507-220-1812 (cell)

Toby Spanier is an Associate Extension Professor and Educator at the Center for Community Vitality with the University of Minnesota Extension in Marshall, MN. He has spent the last 20 years working to make improvements in communities through educational experiences. Toby began his educational career in the non-profit sector and the U.S. Peace Corps. Toby has worked internationally as an educational development specialist in Central and South America. He also worked in the Maryland and Minnesota public school systems, before beginning work with the University of Minnesota Extension. Within Extension, Toby has worked in the Community Youth Development Area and Leadership and Civic Engagement Area of Expertise using his skills and knowledge to build leadership capacity, communication, facilitation and a common vision for organizations, agencies and community groups. He brings extensive experience in program design, curriculum development, teacher professional development and evaluation. Toby is a trained administrator in several assessment instruments, e.g. Intercultural Development Inventory and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. Toby  holds a Master of Arts in Teaching from Towson State University in Maryland.

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