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Dr. Neal Melby named 2014 Citizen of the Year

The citizens of New Richmond voted, and they decided that New Richmond native and New Richnond Clinic physician Neal Melby, MD, is the 2014 New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year.1 / 3
Dr. Neal Melby has been working at the New Richmond Clinic since 1986. He will retire at the end of the month along with New Richmond Clinic physician Bruce Hanson and Susan St. John, manager of the imaging department at Westfields Hospital for 43 years. (Submitted photo) 2 / 3
New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Rob Kreibich hands 2014 Citizen of the Year winner Dr. Neal Melby his plaque during a Chamber Business After Five event on Monday, Dec. 1, at the Wild Badger in New Richmond. (Photo by Jordan Willi) 3 / 3

For the last 46 years, Dr. Neal Melby has served the New Richmond community as a physician at the New Richmond Clinic. For that reason, and many more, the citizens of New Richmond voted to make Melby the New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce 2014 Citizen of the Year.

“This is my community, your community, our community; and it has been a great community to raise a family in,” Melby said. “It is an honor to receive this award and I give a lot of credit to my wife and my family.”

Melby was announced as Citizen of the Year at a special Chamber Business After Five event at the Wild Badger in New Richmond on Monday, Dec. 1. Westfields Hospital President and CEO Steve Massey, who is also a member of the Chamber Board of Directors, made the announcement at the event and New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Rob Kreibich handed Melby his plaque.

“I’ve been here in the New Richmond community for three years now and I’ve been impressed with Dr. Neal Melby’s passion and professionalism,” Massey said after the announcement. “I have been a family member of one of his patients. He actually operated on my oldest son, he took out his appendix, so I was able to witness firsthand the impact that he has had on this community for several years.” 

Other nominees for this year’s award included Randy and Debbie Calleja, Robin Haffner, Lyle Orr, Jackie Huff and Dave Newman.

“Tonight, New Richmond wins because we are honored to have six nominees for this prestigious award,” Kreibich said.

Melby joined Drs. Josh Armstrong, James Craig and Louis Weisbrod at the New Richmond Clinic as a family practice doctor in 1968.

“This is a great honor because I’ve known most of the people in the community and I’ve provided medical service to a lot of folks over the years,” Melby said. “This is my community like everyone else who lives here. This community is like my family. My ancestors came here from the old country, so I’m second generation here in New Richmond.”

Melby, along with fellow New Richmond Clinic physician Bruce Hanson and Susan St. John, manager of the imaging department at Westfields Hospital for 43 years, will be retiring at the end of the year.

“He was able to identify the need for a general surgeon in a community like this and he went back to school to bring those talents back to New Richmond,” Massey said. “For many years he was the only general surgeon and he really put his patients and the community first. His heart and soul was put into the practice. It will be a big loss when he retires at the end of the year.”

After serving at the New Richmond Clinic, Melby left the community to pursue a degree in general surgery and then returned serving as a clinic associate, general surgeon and primary care physician.

“Dr. Melby has had a huge impact on this community for almost a half a century,” Massey said. “We wouldn’t have a hospital clinic in town if it wasn’t for Neal Melby. He came here as a primary care doctor and was one of the first physicians that helped start the practice at the New Richmond Clinic.”

Melby also takes great pride in being on the Board of Education for the New Richmond School District. It allows him the chance to help future generations become the best they can be.

“The answer to our future is our kids,” Melby said. “We really do need to provide the best education we can. We need to help the kids enjoy learning and find the wonderment and excitement of learning.”

In addition to serving on the school board, Melby has been involved with the New Richmond Chamber of Commerce, the New Richmond Preservation Society and his church.

“Not only did he make a mark in health care in this community, but he raised a family with four children here,” Kreibich said. “This is someone who is very deserving of this award. But all the nominees are winners tonight as well.”

The public is invited to a community celebration to honor and recognize Melby, Hanson and St. John on Friday, Jan. 9, from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. at R&D Banquet Center in New Richmond. There will be a short program at 7 p.m.

“I am just doing my job, so I never really saw myself winning an award like this,” Melby said. “I am really a little bit embarrassed by all this attention. To me it is just like every job. You go to work, you do the best you can and provide services for the people of the community and hope things turn out well.”

Tell us your story

Did Dr. Neal Melby save your life? Did Dr. Bruce Hanson deliver your baby? Did Susan St. John X-ray your broken bone. We want to hear about it. With the retirements of these three set for the end of the year, the New Richmond News is looking for your special stories about them for upcoming retirement features. Send as little as a few sentences, but no more than 300 words to  along with your name and town of residence.

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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