Board of Trustees

Jim Coors — President

jim-coorsJim retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2007 where he was a professor in the Plant Breeding and Genetics program and the Department of Agronomy for over 24 years. He is married to Ann Pollock whose family has owned property on the east shore of Lac Courte Oreilles for four generations. In addition to the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation and the Central Cross Country Ski Association, Jim is an active supporter of number of Hayward-area organizations including the Courte Oreilles Lakes Association and the Lac Courte Oreilles Foundation. Jim and Ann are both avid cross-county skiers and bicyclists, and they support silent sports throughout Wisconsin. They will ski their 30th Birkebeiner in 2017.

Joe Hoida — Vice-President

joe-hoidaI live in Green Bay Wisconsin. I’m married to Cheri Hoida and have two children and three grandchildren. I practiced law in Green Bay for almost 40 years, retiring in 2013. My connection to the Birkebeiner began in 1977 when my wife and I decided, with the encouragement of our friends Per and Sandy Johnsen, to do the Birkebeiner. Cheri did the Korteloppet and I did the Birkebeiner. Since then Birkie fever has taken hold and I have completed 35 Birkebeiner’s and I’m training for 36.

In 2005 we built a residence in Lenroot and have been able to spend more time in the Hayward area. I have become closer to the organization and have gained an appreciation of its complexity and need for support beyond the entry fees and fundraisers it currently relies on.

As a trustee of this organization which seeks to establish an endowment fund for the Birkebeiner I hope to be able to help guarantee the continuation of this magnificent event that reflects the spirit not only of cross-country skiers but of the Northwoods communities of Hayward and Cable into the far distant future.

The Birkebeiner has become a significant part of my and my families lives. I want to see it thrive and continue to be available to people interested in outdoor activities year round. As we all know the Birkebeiner is in a phase of innovation and expansion trying to extend its influence beyond just cross country skiing into running cycling etc. I trust that the efforts of this organization and the endowment fund it seeks to create will insure that the organization has continued progress and success.

Michael O’Meara — Treasurer

michael-omearaMichael O’Meara is a lifelong resident of northwestern Wisconsin where he graduated from UW-Eau Claire in 1972 and has been involved in business ownership since that time. He is currently owner and chairman of the oldest [1925] community bank in Hayward, Peoples Bank Midwest, and active in the Hayward, Eau Claire and Twin Cities markets. Michael previously served on the Federal Reserve Board of Minneapolis, was president of the Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce, board member of Mayo-Luther in Eau Claire , National Presto Industries board member and many non-profit charitable organizations in the region. As an outdoor enthusiast, skier, biker and serious supporter of the Birkie and Hayward along with his wife Jane and 4 children, who are consistent participants , he is committed to the long term success of all things Birkie and the Hayward area.

John Torinus

john-torinusJohn Torinus Jr. has worked as a journalist, entrepreneur and business manager since leaving the U.S Marine Corps, where he served as an artillery company commander. John served 20 years as CEO of Serigraph Inc., a graphics parts manufacturer with plants in the U.S. and Mexico. He continues as its active chairman. Torinus is currently chairman of West Bend Friends of Sculpture and is a director for companies as diverse as Fishidy LLC and GrandCare LLC. He is the current treasurer of the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee Research Foundation, as well as a general partner of the Wisconsin Super-Angel Fund, an angel investing fund. John has served on several task forces to reform health care delivery. He holds a baccalaureate in industrial administration from Yale and a master's degree in international relations from the University of Stockholm. Torinus, a former columnist for Milwaukee newspapers, writes a blog and a column for his hometown paper.

Mark Hooley

mark-hooleyMark is an attorney and business person located in the Twin Cities. Mark advises start-up and high growth companies on issues related to finance, strategy and business law. He is married to Anne Hooley and they have four children. When not in the office, Mark enjoys skiing, biking and running. The Hooley family has a cabin on Cable Lake in Cable and they enjoy spending time in the north woods in all seasons. Mark is a graduate of William Mitchell College of Law and St. John’s University.

John Garrett

John GarrettIn 1993, John Garrett skied his first Birkie and was immediately hooked. Although he enjoys a variety of athletic activities and competitions throughout the year, cross-country skiing is his passion and the Birkie is the high point of the ski season. After becoming a member of the Birkie Foundation and volunteering for various Birkie events, John sought out an additional opportunity to give back to the race he loves.

John was elected to the ABSF Board of Directors in 2011. “I ran for a seat on the board to support the mission statement of the Birkie Foundation, which is to put on a world-class event, act as steward of the trail, and support a healthy lifestyle.

John has enjoyed vacationing in Hayward since the early 1990’s. He would come up from Minneapolis, first with his buddies, then with his wife, Colleen, for long weekends of cross-country skiing, mountain biking, inline skating, kayaking, camping, golf, the occasional hockey game, and whatever other activities could be crammed into three or four days. Their dream came true when they purchased a cabin on Windigo Lake in 2001. They have now moved their home base from Minneapolis to a cabin near the Mosquito Brook Trailhead. John retired in 2012 as a partner of a small custom sheet metal products manufacturer. He has two adult daughters who live in Duluth and Austin, MN, and two granddaughters.

Shellie Milford

Shellie MilfordBorn in Northampton, MA, I moved with my family to Milwaukee, WI, when I was about 10 ears old. We lived an active life with many family trips to ski areas in the midwest and west, bicycling the vast neighborhood and camping in our beautiful new state. Music, especially singing, piano and guitar, were (and still are) an important part of my life. As an adult, I continued to enjoy skiing, taught youth downhill skiing at Telemark Resort and raised three beautiful red-headed children, all of whom participated in the Bill Koch League back in the early years of the youth ski program at Telemark.

I was fortunate to be asked to help out at the Birkie in the mid-1980’s, developed Birkie Fever quite quickly and spent the next 28 years involved with the event. The Birkie brought so much joy to my life, developing friendships among skiers, staff and volunteers.

Having retired from the Birkie in 2015, my husband, Mark, and I now enjoy spending time with our daughter and her family, including two granddaughters, in Boise, Idaho, camping in the midwest and west, kayaking, biking, and gardening. We also enjoy time with our two sons, one in Minneapolis and the other in Bayfield.

I am honored to be a Trustee of the Foundation for the Endowment of the American Birkebeiner with an outstanding team.

Paul Eckerline — President of the ABSF

paul-eckerlinePaul spent the summer of 1975 working at Telemark. It was during the glory days of Telemark, the place was bustling with activity, including a group cutting trails for a new event, the Birkie! Paul has volunteered/supported the Birkie ever since, from parking cars to serving as Baggage Chief. Last year Paul was appointed to the Board of Directors. He is committed to supporting the mission of the Birkie, putting on world class events, act as a steward of the trail and supporting a healthy lifestyle.

Paul divides his time between the Twin Cities and the Hayward Area. He is compelled to give back and does so, volunteering at the Ronald McDonald, The Courage-Kenney Rehabilitation Institute, COLA (Court Oreilles Lake Association) along with Cable-Hayward events. He is the Director of Technical Papers for Cellmark, Norwalk, CT, values time spent with family and friends and loves the Hayward Lakes.

Not an elite athlete, barely a recreational skier, Paul loves the camaraderie and all the Birkie experience provides.

Ben Popp — Executive Secretary

ben-poppOriginally from northern Wisconsin, Ben has been involved in American Birkebeiner events since the late 1970s. Born and raised in Phillips Wisconsin, Ben attended St. Olaf College as an undergraduate, and then received his masters degree in Education from St. Thomas University in St. Paul MN. Ben has coached Nordic skiing and soccer at Carleton College, St. Marys University. Ben has owned and operated Endurance Athlete Training Systems, as well as started the non-profit SISU Foundation before starting work at the ABSF. “Having grown up participating in North America’s greatest ski race, I’m honored to be part of the ABSF team and continue the tradition of excellence, hosting quality events and getting people involved in an outdoor lifestyle. My family and I love being a part of the Northwoods community.”