Lexington Area Chamber Of Commerce Hosts Annual Banquet
After a year where the Lexington Area Chamber of Commerce (LACC) board of directors saw three executive directors come and go, outgoing president Barry McFarland vowed after 75 years the Chamber ship wasn’t going down on his watch.
Friday night there was plenty to celebrate as nearly 250 Chamber members and guests gathered at the Holiday Inn Express Convention Center to celebrate a new leadership team and new quarter century of chamber work.
“We started 2016 by developing a strategic plan and overhauled the Chamber structure,” said McFarland. “This really brought the board of directors together, as we took it for granted that others always did things for us.”
Then they hired the “Dynamic Duo,” executive director Christy Werger and administrative assistant Sara Neben, and “we were grateful they stuck with us, even after we said when we hired them ‘by the way, next week we have a rodeo,’ “ said McFarland.
“The future is exciting and tonight is an example of that,” he said, explaining that the board decided to combine the regular banquet and Farmer-Rancher banquet into one. “Our ag family needs to see what our businesses are doing and our businesses need to see what our ag community is doing.”
Award presentations began with those related to the farming and ranching community. Dustin O’Hanlon of O’Hanlon Seed and Shamrock Ag received the 2017 Agri-Service Award. A native of southwest Kansas, O’Hanlon received an agronomy degree from Kansas State University and moved to Nebraska as an agronomist at Lexington Fertilizer. He then became an associate with Pioneer dealer Jim Lundgren in 2005-06.
He started Greenfield Agronomy in 2006, later turning that over to Mark Allen and started Shamrock Ag Consulting. He became a Pioneer representative in 2008-09 and over the last eight years has expanded customer services to include agronomy, drilling, strip tilling, Arrow Seed sales, soil health, an IT division and started a drone sales and service. He currently has 10 employees.
The Agriculture Employee of the Year honor went to Steve Gierhan, who works for Denker, Inc. Noted his employer Mike Denker, “He is a Jack of All Trades. He does everything from spotting sick cattle, is an on-farm electrician, resident welder, out-back mechanic and operates any machine on the farm. Not only has he been an outstanding worker, he has been a great teacher and mentor to his co-workers, especially our two sons.”
Gierhan is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a degree in agriculture and is involved in Trinity Lutheran Church and the community and finds time to sing with a local Barbershop quartet, The Chordhuskers.
Named the 2017 Farm Family of the Year was the Fred and Andrea Nisley family and their story appears elsewhere in this edition of the Trib.
Presidential Ambassadors for both 2015 and 2016 were announced at this year’s banquet based on the number of points accumulated for appearing at ribbon cuttings, open houses and coffees and assisting with other Chamber activities.
The 2015 winners were Jennifer Shubert and Natalie Rickel. Rickel repeated for 2016 and was joined by Heather Heinemann. Rickel also received the LeRoy Jordening Memorial Ambassador of the Year Award, which was voted on by her fellow Ambassadors.
Receiving the Friend of Tourism Award was the Dawson County Museum. During the past year the museum has undergone a pick up, paint up, spruce up campaign and the results both on the museum’s exterior, as well as the interior, have resulted in an increase in visitors. The museum has also introduced new programming, hosted special events and re-established a schedule of rotating exhibits in the art gallery.
The Presidential Award for extraordinary leadership went to Michele McKeone for her efforts on behalf of the Majestic Theatre project. She worked with Lexington Middle School students from the time they launched the project in 2012 through the grand re-opening of the theater in May of 2015, when the original students were high school seniors.
A surprised and nearly speechless Pat Samway received the Jim Kelly Memorial Award for her tireless promotion of Lexington. “She is a true ambassador for the community,” noted presenter Barry McFarland.
Business of the Year honors went to Reynolds-Love Funeral Home. Founder Marlin Reynolds moved his family to Lexington from Seward in 1962 and for the past 55 years they have provided special services for the Lexington community through resident’s hardest times, said McFarland. Carrying on the family tradition are Nick, John and Tami Reynolds, along with numerous, caring employees.
Following the awards the passing of the gavel from outgoing president McFarland to incoming president Erin Heinemann took place. Heinemann then presented McFarland with the Past President’s Award for his service through what had been a challenging year.
Members of the LACC board of directors for 2017 will be: Heinemann, president; Derek Haines, president-elect; Garth Mins, vice president; McFarland, past president; Tara Naprstek, executive officer; Christy Werger, executive director; Sarah Neben, administrative assistant/event coordinator; Crystal Werger, Linda Saiz, Heather Heinemann, Jessica Fagot, Darin Buescher, Scott Haskell, Riley Gruntorad, and Dennis Burnside, ex officio.