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McAbee named Professional & Business Woman of the Year

Heather McAbee makes her way through the crowd at the Professional & Business Woman of the Year Luncheon & Women’s Expo held at Ready Randy’s on April 30 after being named the Professional & Business Woman of the Year. (Courtesy of Ilisa Ailts Photography) 1 / 5
Professional & Business Woman of the Year Heather McAbee addresses the crowd after receiving her award. (Courtesy of Ilisa Ailts Photography)2 / 5
Customers peruse the items at the Garden Expressions booth at the Professional & Business Woman of the Year Luncheon & Women’s Expo at Ready Randy’s on Wednesday, April 30. More than 25 vendors showcased services and wares at the Expo. (Courtesy of Ilisa Ailts Photography) 3 / 5
Casual Affair Boutique, Hair Company & Spa, Walmart, The Jewelry Shop and Maurices participated in the Style and Fashion Show at the Professional & Business Woman of the Year Luncheon & Women’s Expo at Ready Randy’s on Wednesday, April 30. The show featured fashions that can be bought locally for any occasion in a “week in the life of a woman.” (Courtesy of Ilisa Ailts Photography) 4 / 5
Barbara Bartlein (Courtesy of Ilisa Ailts Photography) 5 / 5

It was just a matter of time before Heather McAbee won the local Professional & Business Woman of the Year award, and nobody was surprised on Wednesday, April 30, when she received the honor at this year’s Professional & Business Woman of the Year Luncheon & Women’s Expo held at Ready Randy’s.

“Heather has been nominated for three years in a row,” said event emcee Angela Olson of Angela Olson Law. “She has had glowing nominations. Her tireless work with organizations has been nothing less than impressive with any organization she’s been involved with from the New Richmond Area Community Foundation, Westfields Hospital, the St. Croix County Revolving Loan Fund Committee, New Richmond Area Economic Development Corporation, Rotary, ADORAY, Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Trust Initiative to Grace Place. Her work with the community is endless, and she’s an extremely well-deserving winner.”

Others nominated for the award were Jackie Huff of the New Richmond Area Centre, Marie Gremore of WESTconsin Credit Union, Debbie Morales of Heidi’s Hallmark and Beanbag Coffee House, Nicole Love of Cox Motor Sales, Andi Simon of Fantastic Sam’s, Susan Lockwood of WITC, Michelle Johnson of MKJ CPA, and JoAnn Wrich of The Deerfield.

As Olson began announcing the winner with a little drama, she said the woman had been nominated each of the three years the award has been given. Then she proceeded to read passages from the past nominations slowly giving away clues to McAbee’s identity.

As it became obvious that the winner was McAbee, friends at her banquet table began posing for impromptu cell phone selfie photos with her as she began to tear up.

“I think all the people at my table knew before I did, and they all were staring at me and shooting little videos with their phones. I just wanted to crawl under the table,” McAbee said. “It takes my breath away. Normally I don’t have a problem speaking in front of people, but I was so taken aback that my voice was wavering. I very much appreciate the honor, especially after looking at the other nominees and a full room of other women leaders. It was very humbling.”

Every woman in the banquet hall stood and applauded McAbee as she walked from her table in the back of the room to the podium to accept the award.

“It’s not even so much about being a leader; I just want to get stuff done and be a worker bee and help where I can,” McAbee told the crowd during her acceptance speech. “This is a tremendous community.”

McAbee, who has been with Bremer Bank for 18 years, grew up in Beldenville and is a graduate from UW-River Falls. She has risen through Bremer’s ranks since she first took a job out of college as a commercial analyst with the bank. She now serves as president/market manager at Bremer’s New Richmond branch.

“I was one of the first women on the commercial and ag side of the business,” McAbee said. “That’s been kind of a unique journey, and I’ve been able to help out on project teams that are corporate as well as local starters. It’s been a great, fun career.”

A list of all of the organizations McAbee has a leadership role in reads like a who’s who of New Richmond civic groups, from the New Richmond Area Community Foundation to the Westfields Hospital Board to the New Richmond Rotary Club and beyond. McAbee has a knack for helping out and getting things done.

“My philosophy is that I’m always 100 percent in and I want to try to make a difference,” McAbee said. “Not always do you go in with the plan to be a leader, but I’ve ended up in some leadership roles. With those organizations, I would say that we’ve taken them to a new level. Of course I haven’t been able to do it on my own by any means, but I think I rally folks together for a common cause.”

McAbee points to the fact that the New Richmond Area Community Foundation has more than doubled its assets as a highlight of her volunteer work.

McAbee also credits her husband Jake and children Grady, 11, and Brekken 5, with helping keep her on her toes.

“Life at home is just about as crazy as it is during the day, but I love every minute of it,” McAbee said. “That’s probably my biggest challenge and my biggest reward is trying to find that family-work life balance.”

As part of her prize package, McAbee will receive a floral arrangement each month for the next year from Family Fresh Market, a 60-minute massage from J Rose Massage, custom teeth-whitening from New Richmond Dental, a salon package from the Hair Company and Spa, a $100 gift certificate from NP Design & Photography, a $40 gift certificate from Casual Affair Boutique, dinner for four at Table 65, a $100 travel voucher from Travel Leaders, a gift certificate for a one-hour session with Integrative Health & Healing and a crystal commemorative award.


Humor helps manage stress (By Sarah Young)

“Humor is the key. Finding humor in everyday things. If you know that something will make a good story later, it can’t be too serious.”

These words came from motivational speaker, clinical psychotherapist and workplace culture expert Barbara Bartlein, the keynote speaker at the Professional & Business Woman of the Year Luncheon & Women’s Expo at Ready Randy’s on Wednesday, April 30.

Bartlein gave women common sense tips on balancing and managing stress, family and career life, all while maintaining a sense of humor.

“I see women get caught in the trap of taking care of everyone else and putting themselves on the back burner,” Bartlein said. “I think we set ourselves up for a lot of stress with unrealistic expectations, for ourselves and others.”

Bartlein outlined “stress busters” that will help women manage all the hats they wear: career woman, wife, mother and daughter, to name a few. They include taking a daily humor break, knowing the personal symptoms of overload, exercising and eating healthy.

She also spoke of five mistakes that women commonly make: working hard, hoping someone will notice; not negotiating hard enough for the money they deserve; minimizing their credibility when sharing ideas; not taking enough risks; and neglecting their own health and needs.

Attorney Angela Olson of Angela Olson Law and emcee of the event, said Bartlein’s message was right on point.

“Integrating laughter into life to reduce stress could not have been more well received by the group of women at the luncheon,” Olson said. “We are all ‘go go go’ which means high level stress. Taking a minute to laugh really does wonders. Barbara telling us that and making us laugh herself, was exactly what I needed as a mother of three and a busy trial lawyer practicing high conflict cases, running my own business.”

Bartlein was vice president of St. Mary’s Hospital in Milwaukee and senior vice president of CNR Health. She has appeared on CBS, CNN, The O’Reilly Factor and Nancy Grace.

Micheal Foley
Micheal Foley worked at RiverTown Multimedia from July 2013 to June 2015 as editor at the New Richmond News. 
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