Somerset Chamber bestows awards at annual gala
There probably should have been an award just for attending the Somerset Chamber of Commerce Awards Dinner & Gala Tuesday night at the White Eagle Golf Club in Hudson. The snow which started midday intensified leading up to the start of festivities at 5 p.m. making for hazardous driving conditions. The conditions took their toll on attendance with only the most hearty present to enjoy the pork tenderloin or chicken chardonnay. Nonetheless the show did go on emceed by Executive Director Beckah Whitlock and Board President Brett Link. Following opening remarks by Link, Whitlock recapped highlights from the Chamber's activities in 2018 focusing on the Bridging Somerset project and Heavy Metal Tour. Whitlock explained the Bridging Somerset project assembled representatives from the village and town boards, school board, community foundation, and chamber to create a coordinated strategic plan for Somerset. "I knew that we needed to create a foundation that would create a sustainable, long-lasting chamber if we were going to succeed. Having a strategic plan in place allows us to know where we can support our members in the most efficient manner and in the best way possible," said Whitlock. Whitlock yielded the podium to School District Superintendent Dr. Mark Bezek to elaborate on the strategic planning process. Bezek explained the goal of the coalition was to build a common vision for the whole community founded on the premise that, "We are stronger together than we are separately." Bezek reiterated a refrain familiar to all those who have participated in the planning process: "If we don't act now and do something quick, we're going to end up like a Route 66 town where everyone just bypasses us. It's incumbent on us to really support each other and work in the same direction." Detailed information about the strategic plan can be found at: somersetchamber.org. Bezek concluded by thanking local businesses for supporting the school district and reminding community members of the two referendum questions they will be asked to decide on the April 2, 2019 ballot. He framed the first question as a $28 million bonding request to improve security, upgrade facilities and complete deferred maintenance. He framed the second question as an operational request to keep, maintain and expand programs the district offers to students. Whitlock described the Chamber's 2018 Heavy Metal Tour as a collective effort between the Chamber, school district and local manufacturing companies. The tour started by inviting school administrators and teachers to actually tour local companies to meet business owners and familiarize themselves with what companies expect of employees. Their visit was followed by tours with seventh graders and finally with tours by high school students to introduce them to local companies and make them aware of employment opportunities in their backyard. Prior to announcing award winners, Whitlock announced two new initiatives the Chamber will be undertaking in 2019, the downtown Business Coalition and the Women's Business Initiative. For more information about either initiative contact Whitlock at 715-247-3366 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The snow storm prevented Amy McCune from attending the ceremony and accepting her award for Business of the Year (Amy McCune & Associates) in person while Ambassador of the Year Award Winner, Jonathan Timm of Edward Jones was out of town. Somerset Middle School teacher Joe Hutter took home the Service Outstanding Achievement Recognition Award (S.O.A.R.) while Meg Tryba accepted a Legacy Award on behalf of the Somerset Public Library.
Sandy Nemec, also known as Mrs. Somerset, stole the show as she accepted her Legacy Award to a standing ovation.
"All the things that I did over the years, I didn't do it for the recognition, I did it because I love Somerset. I love the community, I love the people, I love the kids, and I just gave whatever I could. Thank you very much," said a tearful Nemec. Whitlock presented the Director's Award which recognizes competency, leadership and entrepreneurship to Chamber Photographer Doug Peterson. Peterson is the founder of two businesses including Airsoft Xtreme, a participant in the Hudson Police Explorers program and studying to get certified as an EMT all while still in high school and handling photography duties for the Chamber. The evening concluded with the presentation of two special awards recognizing two businesses for their longevity and sustained service to the community. Sheri Soderquist accepted one of the awards on behalf of the First National Community Bank. The bank has been serving the community for 100 years. RiverTown Multimedia sales representative Judy Monette accepted the other special award on behalf of the New Richmond News recognized for its 150 years of service to the community. Whitlock read from a statement prepared by Regional Editor Sarah Nigbor, "We tell the stories of our community. We are there for every moment good and bad. We document your history. We tell the stories of your lives as you invite us into your homes, businesses, sporting events, happiest occasions, and darkest tragedies. We are thankful for our readers' loyalty over 15 decades and proud to be your hometown newspaper."