A call to action last December from the Minocqua Brewing Company (MBC), which is owned by Kirk Bangstad, stoked supporters to write hundreds of emails to Minocqua town chairman Mark Hartzheim, among other things calling him a bully and the king of an “old-boys-network” who was engaging in a political vendetta that amounted to obstruction and harassment.
The Lakeland Times received the emails in an open records request. Most of the emails are from non-residents, though many said they frequently visit the area. The language ranges from civil and professional to obscene and profane. Some use identical language, seemingly scripted, and most carried explicit threats to boycott Minocqua for other tourist towns — and threaten to spread the word — if Bangstad did not get the permit he wanted for his Front Street taproom.
The emails range over many dates, and went to other town officials as well, but most poured in after a December 3, 2021, post on the MBC Facebook page, in which Bangstad — or someone writing officially with his approval — appealed for help from the MBC network. 
In that post, the author wrote that “we” had bought an “awesome” state historic landmark, an old Texaco station, located across the street “from the Westboro Baptist Church of Minocqua, aka The Lakeland Times.”
“… and we STILL don’t have permission from the town to actually fix this place up and open it next summer, because the King of the OBNOM (Old Boys Network of Minocqua), Town Chairman Mark Hartzeim [sic], and his brethren, have obstructed us every step of the way,” the post stated.
The post then included a summary of what he called “small town boneheadery.”
That included an assertion that the man who sold him the building was supposed to demolish a house on the property but delayed for two months because “he didn’t like us,” killing Bangstad’s ability to open for the summer.
The town also initially required seven parking spaces on the property while the previous owner had none, the post claimed.
“We’ve answered every question, dotted every I, crossed every T, and have reduced our grand plans for this building to the bare minimum in order to get permission to build,” the post stated.
Now, the post continued, there was a town meeting to consider MBC’s administrative review permit on December 7.
“If we don’t get this permission by next Tuesday, our builder tells us the project is in jeopardy of not getting done by this summer, because there is a backlog of essential building materials, and we have to order them now in order to get them in time,” the post stated.
And that’s where his followers came in, the post stated.
“Everything we’ve ever accomplished as a business has come from asking our FB friends for grass roots help,” the post stated. “The Minocqua Brewing Company, after making national news repeatedly for our progressive advocacy, and let’s face it, making some pretty cool beer and t-shirts, will probably be the biggest tourist attractions in Minocqua next summer other than our beautiful lakes and streams.”
The obstruction was threatening Minocqua’s prosperity, the post implored.
“To obstruct us further is to hurt tourism in Minocqua, the town’s only industry, and that means a town board full of Republicans would be voting to hurt their own economy and other small businesses in town by voting against us,” the post stated.
But the grassroots could help.
“So please, we’re asking you to send an email to King Mark, who has way more power on this town board than he should, demanding he get out of the way and let the board help the town’s economy by letting us, a brewery with the word Minocqua in its name, exist in our own town,” the post stated.
The post included Hartzheim’s office email address and a link to those of other town officials.
“Please fire away,” the post stated.
Despite the call for the MBC network to pressure Hartzheim and other officials, at a June 7 town board meeting to consider a Bangstad request to waive parking requirements, Bangstad criticized supervisor John Thompson’s apparent suggestion on the Facebook page of an anti-Bangstad group that members of the group should attend the meeting in a bid to, as Bangstad put it, intimidate him.
Bangstad calls the group, which has 367 members, a “hate group,” but on their page posters says they are a bipartisan group that eschews violence and vandalism and exists to respond to what they say are Bangstad’s lies and hatred of locals, as well as his spread of what they say is disinformation in a bid to sell beer and shirts to people who mostly don’t live in the area.

The emails
After Bangstad’s call to action in December, hundreds of emails poured in. Some engaged in profanity and personal attacks, such as this email from Ryan Massey.
[Please note that some of these emails contain graphic language that some might find offensive. It is not our intention to offend, but we feel these emails are so inflammatory and egregious that citizens must be informed of the nature of the campaign organized against the town chairman.]
“What’s up, you dumb piece of sh-t? You need to approve Minocqua brewing’s tap room before your tiny pe—s shrivels even more. Everyone sees what you’re doing, and we all know tiny d—k energy when we see it.”
If Hartzheim couldn’t compete in the free market, Massey wrote, he should get out of the way: “… stop trying this underhanded brown shirt bulls—t, and go get a real job, a—hat. You’ve been beat, and it wasn’t even close. Now go off somewhere quite [sic], and wait for death, so the government mourners at your funeral can get their checks. Rot in hell forever.”
Others, too, engaged in sexual put-downs.
“You all are denying a money making, tax revenue generating business the ability to operate because of their political stance – oh wait… you’re not. You, much like your hero Donald “Tiny Hands” Trump knows how to cover yourself with the veil thin deniability,” wrote Harold M Whitacre, III.
Many of the emails accused Hartzheim of engaging in a political vendetta and mocked and berated the local population, as was the case with an email from Rene Lind of Virginia, Minnesota.
“We passed thru your silly redneck town on the way this past summer to take our pictures @ the Brewing company,” Lind wrote. “We would have stopped for lunch, browsed the stores, dropped some $$. But because you don’t like our ilk, we moved on and spent it elsewhere.”
She wasn’t the only one to call Minocqua a town of rednecks.
“All eyes are on you & OBNOM [good-old-boys network of Minocqua] from throughout WI & other cities in America for tonight’s meeting,” Gary McFall wrote. “Will you acquiesce & do the right thing or continue your hard press to make Minocqua the laughingstock of WI, a small town that depends heavily on tourist $ yet acts like a sanctuary for rednecks, spitting in the face of a local business & its customers & supporters who are apt to bring those $ into your community.”
Paulette Rosch of Sherwood took a swipe at area eateries, even while saying she and her family had taken many visits to Minocqua and spent money on hotels, restaurants, and stores. 
“It is most likely that you are envious of the huge success and following of the brewing company,” Rosch wrote. “Certainly they outshine the mediocre restaurants in the area; we come for the lakes and trails and tolerate the food.”
A writer named Eric also focused on the politics: “Please do not be an obstructionist...  you are supposed to be a civil servant, not a fascist dictator. Be civil and a servant and stop doing all in your power to block them.  If you continue to be an obstructionist, please provide solid reasoning for it. I think the national outlets would be interested.”
Isabella Jarock expressed the same sentiment.
“You are an embarrassment to beautiful Minocqua,” she wrote. “My grandparents have owned a cottage in the area for over 50 years and we visit there multiple times a year. I’ve been informed of the outrageous obstacles you keep putting in their way and I’m astonished. Get off your throne, get over your ego and get out of the way of a small business trying to add to the tourist dollars of Minocqua. Let them build their facility. Who the heck do you think you are?”

Seasonal residents and long-time visitors
Many said they were seasonal residents who will spend their money in neighboring communities, such as Emilie Jones, who said her family visits Minocqua at least twice per month in the summer and typically spends $100-$500 per visit on dining, recreation, and shopping. 
Jones said she worked as an outreach nurse in Chicago and her husband as a biologist at a medical college in Milwaukee, both have leadership positions with the Boy Scouts, as well their children’s high school academic teams and professional organizations. Jones said her family owned guns and hunted and fished.
“You know what else we are? Liberal democrats who support the products and efforts of the Minocqua Brewing Company,” she wrote. “I know that you are attempting to control the type of business owners in your town. … We may not be able to vote you out, but we can certainly choose to spend our money elsewhere.”
While not seasonal residents, others, such as Nicole DeBace, said they visited Minocqua frequently and threatened to boycott the area and to spread the word.
“I live in Minnesota and have every intention of regularly visiting your town with my family when the Minocqua Brewery is open,” she wrote. “Your childish, selfish actions are hurting the town and vital tax and tourism revenue. I have a lot of family that lives nearby in Wisconsin as well. All are being informed of your actions and no one will support your town until you put business and revenue above your own petty issues. You have no business in government.” 
Jeremy Estness felt the same way.
“Stop obstructing Minocqua Brewing from building their business,” he wrote. “If you don’t allow them, you will have a lot of people avoiding your town next summer including myself and my family. For you to railroad them the way you have is despicable. Stop using your elected position to attack someone because you don’t agree with their politics.”
Lucinda Moriarity said she and her family used to stop in Minocqua fairly often for food or gas, and occasionally to buy clothing or fudge. 
“In the last few years, though, I have not wanted to support a town led by people who are willing to let politics override good sense by blocking progress,” she wrote. ”The Minocqua Brewing Company makes some of the best beer I’ve ever had, but unfortunately it can’t even be bought in Minocqua. And your stubbornness and meanness in dealing with their efforts to open a new venue just makes me mad.”
Moriarity closed her email with a derogatory remark: “Stop being such a pig.”
Jim Kaput of Madison and Mercer said his family has had a summer home on the Turtle Flambeau Flowage for 56 years, and continue to support the local economy.
“However, the blatant politics that you and the town board are playing will change that support,” Kaput wrote. “I am finding that Manitowish Waters is now built up to a point to compete for my tourist dollars, and Ironwood has the hardware and national chains which make it unnecessary to travel to Minocqua.”
Dr. Kristen Garey also aimed at Hartzheim’s political motives: “I would highly recommend that you put your political opinions aside (remember free speech?) and do what is best for the town and people of Minocqua. We visit Minocqua multiple times per year while camping but will be sure to avoid spending any of our hard earned income if this nonsense continues. I’m far from the only one that feels this way.”
Donna Lensing said the community’s treatment of Bangstad was deplorable.
“I cheer on Mr. Bangstad as he fights you and your cronies,” Lensing wrote. “It’s time to step away from doing things the old, white guy way. It’s 2021 for crying out loud.  Consider the future. You could be a hero if you weren’t such a d—k.”

Will sacrifice for MBC
One emailer said her family had already bailed because of Minocqua’s lack of adequate safeguards against Covid, but would come anyway if only MBC would be open.
“My family and friends chose to take our tourist dollars elsewhere due to lack of masking, low vaccination rates, and lack of care for my families health and safety in town during the pandemic but would reconsider if the brewing company were to reopen,” Sarah Verrill wrote.
Some of the emails seem scripted and used identical wording.
“Having this ‘liberal’ business in your town will benefit everyone, liberal and conservative alike. Plus, beer,” wrote Ann McCarthy of Madison.
Shannon Wegge wrote the same thing: “Having this ‘liberal’ business in your town will benefit everyone, liberal and conservative alike. Plus, beer.”
While most of the emails came from people who are not area residents, some locals did chime in.
“We are residents of Minocqua and think this brewery would be a great asset for the town,” Jim and Sue Nurczyk wrote. “Too many food and drink establishments have had to close and it is exciting to see a new brewery want to open in our beautiful town. Please don’t let politics block a new business from improving our town and its tax base.”
Some writers kept the discourse civil while supporting Bangstad.
“Please approve the construction and building by Minocqua Brewing,” Lynn Gaede wrote. “It will be a great asset and tourist attraction for the city. We out of towners LOVE to visit micro-breweries. I live in Hudson and we are getting a brand new distillery downtown which is a wonderful new business for us. Minocqua should be supporting new business, not hassling them. This means $$ for Minocqua, so let’s get this done. ”
And finally, a few email writers supported Hartzheim.
“I know you probably have 100s of emails from people about this company and I’m sure by now you figured out they have named you on their social media posts in an attempt to bully and harass you and other town officials,” wrote Alex. “I’m also probably the only one to ask you this but I’m asking for the town to reconsider letting the company operating in Minocqua. I’ve been a vacationer for over 30yrs with my family and as of yesterday I’m becoming a permanent resident in the area.”
Alex said he would prefer a company that “doesn’t bring politics into everything, doesn’t cry foul when things don’t go their way, and doesn’t bully and harass people who don’t agree with them.”
“I asked them for evidence supporting their claims and they immediately started bullying me and trying to stalk me to find out who I was, then banned me from the company,” he wrote. “This attitude towards potential customers will hurt tourism more than it will help.”
Alex said he was from a small town just outside of Milwaukee and had seen similar situations cause financial problems for the town and neighboring towns. 
“I’d prefer not to have to experience hate when I’m in this town,” he wrote. “That is why I moved to the area and away from Milwaukee (that and the crime rate in my town is increasing). I know one person won’t be able to persuade a town to shutdown a business but I’m hoping that the board takes Minocqua Brewing Company’s actions towards tourists and locals into account when dealing with them.”