Thursday, November 1, 2007

Much Ado About Wenmark

A story that has gotten alot of press lately is that of School Board Candidate Bill Wenmark's educational history. The Lakeshore Weekly News, Sun Sailor, Chanhassen Villager, and now the Star Tribune have all reported that Wenmark didn't attend the US Naval Academy as a cadet, but instead served there during his military involvement. Statistics have also been provided regarding his attendance at meeting and workgroups which has been lower than his peers.

While the authors of this blog don't know Wenmark personally and have not endorsed any candidates, we find the fact that this has made the Star Tribune unfortunate. It reminds us of the shallow national politics aired on Fox News or MSNBC -- digging up an inconsistency in what someone said once, and then make that the entire story. While we have seven candidates campaigning on the issues for four school board seats, the main story a week before the election is about how one individual classified an experience that occured 35 years ago. Does this type of story really make the top people in our community want to run for office?

We also are curious if the same diligence was placed on validating claims from the other candidates, or if Wenmark was singled out.

The meeting attendance point, in our view, is more germane and something voters ought to be able to factor in to their consideration.

We aren't saying you should vote for Wenmark or should not. We're simply saying it is unfortunate that here, a week before an important local election, a personal story about one candidate has somehow become the news, just like seems to happen in national elections.


  1. For me it raises the question of ethics and integrity. I don't see it as a slip of the tongue at all. To knowingly print and submit it in a multitude of places is inexcusable and thus poses another question - what else is fact or fiction about Mr. William Wenmark?

  2. Wenmark lists a variety of organizations under education. Hell, he could list his church as an educational source and I wouldn't assume it meant he attended the seminary. I'm not sure who started whispering that Wenmark wasn't actually a cadet at the academy, but whoever did has succeeded in doing what was most important to those campaigning against him, turning it into an election centered around how deceitful Wenmark is rather than whether his past practices as a board member. It's working, as evidenced by the first comment posted here.

    Wenmark wasn't going to win re-election anyway, but as this blog entry pointed out, it's sad that this is what his opponents are getting all lathered up about.

    It's no wonder I don't get involved in political campaigns. I won't put up signs, I won't pledge money, I won't sign my name to endorsement lists, hell, I feel dirty just voting, because the election process is full of disgusting people -- candidates and supporters -- who make politics ugly. People who trade in such tactics, or buy into them, should be ashamed.

    I'm glad the district will have its chosen seven serving on the board next year. God forbid they have anybody who doesn't tow the company line, especially when he intentionally misleads people about what he considers to be the sources of his education.

  3. The Star Tribune did not generate this story a week before the election - Mr. Wenmark did.
    Patrice Relerford of the Star Tribune called me twice on Tuesday 10/30 for comment from TonkaFocus. She verified that Mr. Wenmark had contacted the Star Tribune to print a refutation of the Lakeshore article; he accused that paper of doing a "hit" piece and complained of an orchestrated effort to get rid of him.
    Mr. Wenmark is circulating an e-mail in which he states that his attorneys are preparing legal action against the Lakeshore. This is in keeping with his propensity to threaten a lawsuit against anyone who crosses him, and could explain why he "bills" the school district for his legal fees - $20,000 in 2007.
    Another episode of his bullying happened at the board meeting last night, 11/1. A teacher had finished a presentation about the elementary school newspaper he helps kids write, and board members expressed their interest with comments and questions. Mr. Wenmark put this teacher on the spot with an attempt to make an utterly self-serving point by asking if students could help him learn the proper use of the term "alma mater."
    Sadly, no teachers' union representatives or local reporters were present.
    To dismiss Mr. Wenmark's reference to the Naval Academy as a mere slip of the tongue is to ignore the evidence. I was present when Mr. Wenmark made his comment about the U.S. Naval Academy. It was clear he intended his listeners to understand he had graduated from that institution. It struck me particularly at the time for two reasons 1) my daughter had a good friend who was then a midshipman at the Naval Academy and Mr. Wenmark's terminology did not ring true, and 2) I had heard Mr. Wenmark on other public occasions describe himself as a self-made man without college degree. He has consistently bemoaned, most recently at the October 23 candidate forum, the
    "indoctrination" of students at American colleges and universities. An odd comment from a school board member where 90+% of students go on to higher education.
    More compellingly, Mr. Wenmark has provided to the school district, to local papers, and to his own campaign web site, a somewhat garbled list of his education credentials which includes the simple statement "United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland." This statement was present on his web site during the month of October 2007. A scan of that PDF is now posted to Bill Wenmark's page on
    As for your question, which echoes the question asked by the SunSailor in their lukewarm defense of their original endorsement of Mr. Wenmark: Were other candidates' credentials scrutinized with the same attention? The answer appears to be No, for the simple reason that there is no credible evidence that other candidates have misrepresented their credentials.
    The saddest thing in all of this is that Mr. Wenmark appears to have a genuine record of military service, and he parlayed the medic and/or nursing knowledge gained there into a successful business. Surely he'd have more credibility with voters had he expressed pride in that.
    As for your speculation that such attention to credentials will discourage our community's best and brightest from running for public office - the facts simply do not support your assertion.
    Fourteen highly qualified people came forward to apply for the Board vacancy after Dave Eaton resigned. Some of them are running in this election.
    A quick glance at the local papers' profiles of candidates in neighboring districts will show that Minnetonka is extraordinarily fortunate to have candidates with integrity, wide experience and varied education running for office.
    Voters are welcome to visit for full information from the public record on every candidate, and convenient links to much information on this election and referendum.
    Judy Budreau, Co-Editor of TonkaFocus

  4. It seems only reasonable that candidates running for election to the school board be subject to the same standards by which the District and the school board hold students.

    I refer you to Minnetonka Public Schools Policy #636: SECONDARY ACADEMIC INTEGRITY POLICY. The purpose of the policy is to "establish clear guidelines for academic honesty." The policy states that "all school members will foster the development of good character and social responsibility." Further, the policy states, "Integrity is essential to excellence both in education and life" and that "Integrity is essential to excellence both in education and life."

    I also draw your attention to Minnetonka Public Schools Policy STUDENT DISCIPLINE AND CODE OF CONDUCT #506, Section 5.12, which states that "All students have the responsibility… to avoid inaccuracies in student newspapers or publications…"

    Most of us expect the adults in our children's lives to be good role models and lead by example. The examples we elect are, of course, a matter of personal choice but in this writer's view should not be at odds with District policies.