Michael Schneider


Mike has been at The Clearing since 1999. When asked about his job description, he says “Anyone who works for a not-for profit organization, or any small business for that matter, has the same job description: Do what needs to be done that day!” This suits Mike just fine. He enjoys the variety of work his job requires, including program planning, facility management, teaching and writing, along with all of the day-to-day administrative tasks that need doing (well, not all of them, to be perfectly honest). He feels incredibly lucky to be working for such a unique and wonderful organization and to be living in Door County. Along with his wife, Cindy, and their two cats, he lives near Ellison Bay, where he spends his time gardening, landscaping, hiking, reading, feeding and watching the birds and working with stained glass. Mike and Cindy’s two children, Katherine and Jeffrey (twins), are recent graduates of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and have now entered the world of adulthood.

Erik Rinkleff


Erik first came to The Clearing in 1993 as an Iowa State landscape architecture student. His love of the outdoors, council fires and smores led him back to this land of oatmeal in 1997 for a three month summer job. That was a while ago and the rest, as they say, is history. And oh what an interesting history it has been. Erik’s work at The Clearing takes him inside and out. Whether he’s behind the computer, teaching a carving class, at the table saw or out on the trail, Erik enjoys the infinite creative currents running through The Clearing and the many people it calls to.

Tammy Musiel


Tammy grew up in Racine, WI and Door County is now home after traveling extensively throughout more than 20 years in her Human Resources career. Life continues to be made interesting through The Clearing community of Winter, Summer and Workshop Program students, its many volunteers, and The Clearing’s long-standing traditions. To be able to come to work in this beautiful place with the creative spirit that permeates it, and have a role in its operation is a lucky position to be in.

Kathy Swanson


No one knows The Clearing as well as Kathy. She grew up at The Clearing (with her dad and mom, Don & Louise Buchholz, Resident Managers from 1976-1999). Can you imagine having The Clearing’s 128 acres as your very own backyard! Kathy never ventured too far from Door County and returned to work here in 1993. If you call The Clearing, you will not find a more kind or more informative person than Kathy. When not registering students, Kathy can be found quilting, knitting, tending her bonsai trees or out hiking with her husband Mike and their little dogs.

Melinda Schaufer


Born in Ogden, Iowa, Melinda Schaufer has traveled a long, winding road — teaching 7th & 8th grade English in Elgin IL, owning a shop in Door County for 3 years, marrying and moving to DC in 1980 and finding rewarding jobs along the way. Thanks to Barb Vondras, Melinda found her way to The Clearing in 2001.

Her new job opened up not only a new work life in the office and bookstore, but has added many special moments – watching a monarch chrysalis open for the 1st time, seeing her 1st luna moth, taking wonderful classes (especially the poetry class where her rusty poetry skills made a much needed comeback), feeling a bit more confident about computers, and forming lasting friendships with co-workers, volunteers, students and instructors. “The Clearing has allowed me to meet such a wide range of wonderful people who care deeply about lifelong learning and the mission of The Clearing. This folk school in the woods is an extraordinary place, and it has made my life so much better!”

When not working, Melinda loves reading, watching action movies, politics, preparing for the yearly 5K and spending time with her husband Bruce, stepdaughter Jenn, her very special grandkids, Cooper and Xavier, and grand-dog Patches.

Volunteer Staff

Ron Hupe


Gerry Tool


Gerry was introduced to The Clearing when he took his first Winter classes in 1993 after retiring to Door County from his Electrical Engineering career. Volunteering followed shortly after. The Volunteer Coordinator of that era, Midge Dana, discovered that Gerry’s engineering background could be applied to modernizing the Orchard House office operation by networking the two stand-alone pc computers then in the office. Midge kept asking questions and pursuing other projects including institution of The Clearing’s first relational database to manage student and class records, and creation of the first web site for the Clearing. Gerry continued as a remote volunteer when Gerry and his wife Betty moved to Burlington, WI to be closer to a young grandson in 2000. In 2017, Gerry continues to support The
Clearing on technical issues mainly related to the web site and email systems.