Meet the Candidates

Board elections september 7 - october 21

The Merc Co+op's Board of Directors is comprised of seven co-op owners who are elected by the general ownership and serve three-year terms. Any co-op owner may run for a board position and all co-op owners in good standing with shares paid in full by August 31, 2018 are eligible to vote. 

There are four open seats on the board. The candidates are listed below in alphabetical order.

Kelly Barth

 Kelly Barth, Board Candidate

Kelly Barth, Board Candidate

Current Employment and Work Experience

I am currently employed as an online writing tutor trainer with Smarthinking.com, a division of Pearson. I also work part-time as a salesclerk at the Raven Bookstore in Lawrence. I am a writer and have worked as a freelance writer in the past.

Previous Board Experience

  • For the past six years, I have served on the Merc’s Board of Directors.
  • For eight years, I was a member of the Lawrence Parks & Recreation Advisory Board.
  • For five years, I served on the grant review board for the Elizabeth Schultz Environmental Fund, overseen by the Douglas County Community Foundation. In collaboration with four other review board members, I reviewed applications and selected projects based on need and available funds.
  • I was on the Lawrence Complete Streets public relations advisory committee. Our goal was to host events and create materials that would help citizens understand the larger purpose of complete streets, a program with the goal of ensuring the safe use of streets by all users, i.e. pedestrians, cyclists, and wheeled device users. As a partial result of these efforts, a complete streets policy was adopted by the City of Lawrence.
  • For nearly a decade, I was a member of the Committee on Imagination & Place, an arts and environment think-tank, which has organized two citywide conferences. I’ve led breakout groups following sessions to allow people to further process what they heard.

What skills would you bring to The Merc Co+op's Board of Directors?

Primarily, I offer my long-term commitment as member-owner of the Merc; I purchased my first share in 1997. Though once reticent to express an unpopular opinion, through my service on the Merc Board, I’ve learned to speak my mind, keep to the subject, and communicate efficiently with a focus on the larger conversation. By being both respectful and informed, I can clarify my own position while remaining open-minded. I’ve also learned to listen carefully and request for clarification if I don’t understand. I’ve also learned when to concede to the majority opinion—when to disagree but not block its decision. With expansion on the horizon, I also offer the board the stability of a candidate with previous board experience and the institutional memory to support the board through this exciting time of transition.

Why would you like to serve on The Merc Co+op’s Board of Directors?

I want to continue to serve on the Merc Board because I want to help it continue to remain a profitable grocery store that has been the source of sustainably grown, organic, and local food and has been an irreplaceable community resource for more than 40 years. With the potential for expansion into a new market, I also hope to serve as a board member that can serve with a sense of integrity to the current store combined with an openness to the needs of shoppers at the proposed location. I would consider it a distinct honor to serve on a board with members from that new area and to gain an understanding of the needs of a diverse community that has, for far too long, managed without any grocery store, much less a co-op. And, as I said when I first applied for the board six years ago, essentially, I care about the food I eat, where it comes from, how it is raised, who grows and harvests it, and how they treated the land that produced it. I want to encourage and support that passion in others through board service.

Dustin Brown

 Dustin Brown, Board Candidate

Dustin Brown, Board Candidate

Current Employment and Work Experience

As an 18-year resident of Lawrence, KS I’m pretty sure Lawrence is in my blood now. I live in Old West Lawrence with my wonderful wife and two adorable kiddos ages 2 and 5. We are committed to making Lawrence our forever home and have decided it is time to give back to the community that we love.

As CEO of The Open Grain marketing agency and long-time software engineer I bring a diverse skill set to the table. In running The Open Grain I have the joy of interacting with the community on a day-to day-basis. I enjoy all the ups and downs of running a local business and happily take on the challenges that it presents. I believe in building strong teams and empowering everyone in the organization to solve problems and be an advocate for the organization.

Previous Board Experience

In my previous board experience as co-chair of the Oread Residents Association I leveraged my technical skill sets to bring their email and web communication into the modern age and served as a liaison between the renters and the owners that lived in the neighborhood.

What skills would you bring to The Merc Co+op’s Board of Directors?

I am able to bring strong leadership and business experience to the board. The marketing and social knowledge that come from running an advertising agency will also help me contribute input to the board that reflects the best interests of the owners and the community.

Why would you like to serve on The Merc Co+op’s Board of Directors?

As the son of a small business owner I’ve learned to appreciate local business and the true effect on the community that shopping local has. I’ve spent my adult life as an avid hiker, climber, and conservationist. The importance of reducing our impact on the planet cannot be stressed enough. The Merc Coop and other stores like it across the nation are often times the best first step for consumers to learn about what they can do for the environment and their community. If elected, I look forward to furthering The Merc’s mission and to find new ways to reach more people in the Kansas City area.

Barbara Clark

 Barbara Clark, Board Candidate

Barbara Clark, Board Candidate

Current Employment and Work Experience

Currently, I am a co-owner with my husband of Maggie's Farm here in Lawrence, KS. We are a small diversified family farm with USDA Organic Certification.  Our farm raises sheep for their wool production as well growing a variety of fruits and predominately heirloom and open pollinated vegetables, and small grain crops. Maggie's Farm is in its 23rd year of operation here in Lawrence.           

Previous Board Experience

I am presently serving my third term on The Merc Co+op board.  I have worked on the Lawrence Farmers' Market board and was a vendor there for 18 years. Other local groups on whose boards I have served include the Douglas County Food Policy Council and Citizens for Responsible Planning.  Both groups had a focus on the importance of our local food system and the preservation of our Capability Class I and II soils throughout Douglas County.  Food equity and access to healthy foods for all in our community has always been a point of great importance for me.

What skills would you bring to The Merc Co+op's Board of Directors?

During the nine years I have served on The Merc board I have gained an in-depth understanding of the responsibility of board work and all associated policies, bylaws, and the great benefits food co-ops bring to a community.  Within my tenure on the board I have served as Secretary, Vice-President, and President. These varied roles have allowed me to gain a fuller picture of board work. Attention to detail and strong carry through on tasks, along with good organizational capabilities are skills I would continue to bring to the board.  

Why would you like to serve on The Merc Co+op's Board of Directors?

The Merc Co+op has always held an important place in our community for me. I have appreciated the opportunity to work as a board member through the last nine years. I have felt fortunate to see many positive changes that work towards our Ends Policies.

Finally, I am excited about the work being done currently by The Merc Co+op to expand with a second store into a new, underserved community.  Working towards providing access to healthy, local, organic food and products, while building a community based on hospitality, generosity and care for the environment is an effort I would like to continue being a part of. 

Connie Fiorella Fitzpatrick

 Connie Fiorella Fitzpatrick, Board Candidate

Connie Fiorella Fitzpatrick, Board Candidate

Current Employment and Work Experience

Hola! My name is Connie Fiorella Fitzpatrick. I am a self employed community based artist and adventure cartographer. A lot of my artwork stems from my Peruvian heritage, and race equity. I am very passionate about the food system, equitable-sustainability, and building community. Thanks to a scholarship provided by Climate + Energy Project, I was able to attend the first ever Kansas Environmental Leadership Summit on July of this year.

Previous Board Experience

I have previously served on the Ecumenical Campus Ministries Board. Currently, I am a board member of the Douglas County Food Policy Council. Prior joining the DCFPC, I have helped shape the DCFP Food Policy Plan through the SunriseProject—Community Coordinators position. In my time in Lawrence; I have also spend many hours volunteering as a Certified Medical Interpreter at LMH, HCA, and other local health homes.

What skills would you bring to the Merc Co+op's board of directors?

Serving as a Medical Interpreter has showed me the disequites that my Latinx community experiences. Particularly as a population with large rates of High Blood Pressure and Diabetes. Some if the skills that I would to share as a board member of The Merc would be; my intercultural, multilingual, and equity-building skills.

Why do you want to serve on the merc co+op's board of directors?

I am a strong believer in representation of People of Color on environmentally focused spaces; I genuinely believe that it is instrumental for our planet’s future to collaborate in union.

Nathan Karner

 Nathan Karner, Board Candidate

Nathan Karner, Board Candidate

Current employment and work experience

I am currently the Chief Investment Officer / Portfolio Manager of  Starbrook Global LLC, a private investment firm and holding company that I founded in 2016.  I have also been serving in the Kansas Army National Guard since 2014 functioning as a paralegal, Information Management Officer, and Knowledge Management Officer.

Previous Board Experience

As a Chief Investment Officer, I have conceived and developed the firm’s risk management infrastructure.  Applying a diverse knowledge of financial strategies to maximize potential upside in the portfolio while utilizing fundamental business analysis.  My role as an Information Management Officer was as a liaison between the legal offices and IT department in the management of technical problems and projects.  I optimized the office workflow as the Knowledge Management Officer to develop organizational information systems for the legal offices. During my time as a Paralegal, I supported the development and review of office standard operating procedures (SOP) and organizational policies.  

What skills would you bring to The Merc Co+op's board of directors?

Having a diverse background gives me unique point of view and allows me to bring a broad array of skills associated with Information Technology, software development/management, office management, financial research and analysis, and legal research and analysis.  My strongest skill set is the development of systems that streamline an organization's workflow  through minimization and automation in a strategic way.  

Why do you want to serve on the Merc Co+op's Board of Directors?

I am passionate about spreading community wellness and health through nutrition, fitness, and meaningful relationships.  The Merc’s goal to provide access to healthy food and product to help transform the health of communities is something I strongly believe in.  The Merc Co-op allows the consumer to be socially responsible by purchasing environmentally friendly goods, while growing the local communities economy.   It is important that we leave our communities a better place for future generations to enjoy.  It would be my honor to serve the shareholders and management in this endeavor to change the world. 

Mark Sprague

 Mark Sprague, Board Candidate

Mark Sprague, Board Candidate

Current Employment and Work Experience

I work for The Villages Inc., which manages adolescent group homes outside of Topeka and Lawrence, as the Land Management Coordinator. I used to manage one of the houses. I also worked with adolescents at The Menninger Foundation for 20 years and ran a Handyman/Carpenter business for 10. I was elected to the City Council of Whiting, KS, and was treasure for Jefferson Co. RWD #2.

Previous Board Experience

I have been a member of The Merc Board of Directors since 2010 and served in the offices of President, Vice President, and Treasurer. During that time, The Merc has purchased the building it occupies, had a major remodel, a new roof, and gone solar. I have been a part the recent decision to another store. Each of these efforts have brought new learning about the role the board plays in protecting our investment as a cooperative while advancing and promoting the ideals of our collective.

What skills would you bring to The Merc Co+op's Board of Directors?

I have learned to read reports and audit sheets in order to monitor the progress made by The Merc’s General Manager in pursuing goals laid out in annual business plans and the fiscal health of our cooperative. I have the experience of doing this while working with other board members collaboratively to reach solid consensus decisions.

Why would you like to serve on The Merc Co+op's Board of Directors?

When I began shopping at The Community Mercantile, or The Merc, in 1974, my wife and I had become vegetarians and learned the impact of how food is grown has on health and environment. Working at a farmer owned CO-OP made me aware of the politics and economics of food production. We became regular shoppers of The Merc, very dependent on it’s bulk section. Even when we lived over an hour away, we made regular trips for essential items we could only get there.

I am an owner and a board member because it is vital to me The Merc continue to be here to serve our needs as owners and members of the community. A place that provides access to local healthy food, good employment, education and is a gem in our community.