Banquet highlights HCB&T, TPD’s Hall of Fame

CRESCO - Jason Passmore, Executive Director of Howard County Business & Tourism (HCBT), introduced Sue Barnes, 1st Vice President of Howard County Economic Development (HCED), who welcomed all to the annual awards banquet. Barnes noted the pleasure of being in person again and extended a special welcome to keynote speaker Congresswoman Ashley Hinson before offering a brief prayer of thanks and blessings.
A buffet style dinner by McAllister Catering was then served.
Hall of Fame Awards
After dinner, Passmore introduced Dan Evans, Publisher of the Times Plain Dealer, to hand out the Hall of Fame awards. Evans cited Mark Twain in saying that humor is mankind’s greatest blessing, so offered his own blessing in the form of a joke that amused the crowd and started things off on the right foot.
Citizen of the Year was awarded to Elaine Govern, a woman of vision from Riceville. “When it comes to Riceville and seeing a vision,” Evans said, “Elaine not only saw what was best for the community and surrounding area, but took on that vision with vigor and passion.” 
Govern and her late husband, Pete, were the driving force behind the new Riceville library, which took 10 years to build. Through their work, the library still benefits from the endowment set up to fund it. Govern also rescued the beautiful stage curtains from the old theatre in Riceville that are now on display in the library and helped create a 90-person theatre there to serve the community.
Perhaps Govern’s greatest contribution is her hard work on the Wapsi - Great Western Line Trail project. From writing grants to buying land, she produced a 26-mile paved trail from Elma through Riceville to the Minnesota state line.
“This honor humbles me,” Govern said upon receiving her award, “because, in my heart of hearts, I know it’s misplaced. It belongs to all the people who have walked the journey with me.” 
She then spoke of the many people who have shared her journey and their many and varied contributions, accepting the award on their behalf.
A second Citizen of the Year award was bestowed on Anna Myers. At 92 years of age, her volunteerism at the Howard County Fair is the stuff of legend. She’s worked with the fair since she was hired by the Farm Bureau in 1952 — that’s 70 years of Howard County Fair involvement! Through her work with the all-volunteer Farm Bureau Women, she helped to start the Howard County Queen Contest in 1989 and run it until the organization disbanded in 2019.
Myers accepted her award with great enthusiasm. She regaled the crowd with personable anecdotes of her long life, from her birth in Cresco hospital (that’s sure changed a lot, she noted) to current days. She spoke about all the changes she’s seen over her 92 years and about the many, many, many volunteer works with which she’s been involved.
To the delight of the crowd, when Myers struggled with reading her notes due to low light, HCED President and RHSHC CEO Robin Schluter came to the rescue with a flashlight app on her phone, standing in that stead throughout the rest of Myer’s speech.
Myers went on to speak about her work with the Farm Bureau, a job she held for exactly 50 years, to the day. While she worked with the Farm Bureau, she wrote many stories and articles, preserving the history of both the Farm Bureau and Farm Bureau Women – records that are now in the agricultural section of the Cresco Public Library. She also wrote about all the fair queens over the years, and saved a picture of each for the sake of posterity.
“I didn’t throw any of it away,” she said about the records. “It’s all on display up here someplace [at the library].”
The third award of the night was Organization of the Year, presented to the Cresco Theatre Commission. The Cresco Theatre Commission oversees the operations and use of the historic Cresco Theatre and Opera House. 
The commission is a volunteer committee of six individuals: Jon Hayek (President), David Gosch (Vice-President), Ronda Hughes (Secretary) and Kari Waterbeck, Julie Wilson and Tara Henry. 
Its mission statement includes “To preserve, maintain, and operate the Cresco Theatre as a historic landmark which benefits the people of Cresco, Howard County, Iowa and tri-state area by providing an accessible, unique facility and valuable cultural asset.”
Hayek accepted the award on behalf of his fellow commission members. He mentioned two big upcoming projects — the replacement of theatre seating and the rebuilding of the scene shop, before handing the mic to Hughes.
“In February,” she said, “we had almost 300 people attend The Looney Lutherans, and we found a few from a 100-mile radius, and a lot of them had never been to the theatre before. It was amazing to hear the comments about our theatre and how lucky we are to still have a theatre like that, and how important it felt to us, preserving the theatre. 
“That’s our goal, to preserve the theatre, keep it going, but not just for movies. There’s lots of other entertainment. So everything we can do, and you within the community helping us, we’ll keep our theatre here for a long time.”
The final Hall of Fame award is a new one to honor area educators, support staff and administration. The first ever Educator of the Year award went to Amy Schroeder. Since 1996, Schroeder has been a para-educator at Notre Dame Elementary. For 18 of those 26 years, she was in Playgroup and Preschool, but she has been at every grade level, from preschool to sixth grade. 
Kim Holthaus, who nominated “Ms. Amy” for this award, has said that “Amy has always had a huge heart for the kids! I can remember that she was the person the kids looked for if they got hurt, fell down, forgot something, needed help opening their milk or generally just needed a hug to get through the day.”
Unfortunately, Schroeder was unable to attend the banquet. The award was accepted, on her behalf, by Holthaus, who read a message from Schroeder. “Thank you for the Educator of the Year award,” she said in part. “I truly appreciate it, and I feel honored to receive an award for doing something that I love.” She also thanked Notre Dame schools, in specific, and Kim Holthaus for nominating her.
With the Hall of Fame awards all handed out, Evans returned the podium to Jason Passmore, who took the opportunity to award one more special award. 
“From 2013 through 2019,” Passmore said, “this individual served as the President of Howard County Economic Development as we seemed to go through multiple changes in the board. I kept coming back to her, every two years and asking if she would do another term as president. Luckily, she kept answering her phone even though she likely knew what was coming.”
In appreciation for those three consecutive terms, Passmore honored Alison Holten.
Holten accepted the award, noting how small the world is by acknowledging her personal connection to three of the four Hall of Fame award recipients. 
“Howard County is definitely lucky to have these individuals in our community, who support our community, who support our businesses, who support our children,” she said.
“It takes a community to raise a family,” Holten added. “And I think Howard County … we’re a pretty good family. We might not get along all the time. We have our differences, but we try to work through them and become a better place.”
With the award portion of the evening over, Passmore took a moment to acknowledge local dignitaries in attendance, including State Representative Michael Bergan; City of Cresco Mayor, Dave Brenno; and Howard County Board of Supervisor, Dean Eastman. He also thanked out-going president of Northeast Iowa Community College, Dr Wee, for “a decade’s worth of servant leadership at its finest.”
Moving on to comments on the current state of Business and Tourism in the Howard County area, Passmore cited a Midwestern “nose to the grindstone” mentality for the fact that nearly every business in Howard County made it through the pandemic. Acknowledging the exception, the loss of the Chinese restaurant in Cresco, he shared that two new restaurants will be opening by the end of summer.
Passmore also spoke about the workforce shortage afflicting Howard County and the rest of the country. “It takes creative ways to stay alive and even grow in this current culture,” he said, “but that is what we are seeing across our county.” 
From Upper Iowa Beef in Lime Springs tripling of their workforce and recent million dollar expansion to reinvestment in Chester by way of converting an old brick building into downtown apartments; from Route 63 Travel Plaza’s new ideas on how to increase traffic to Camp-Site RV’s million dollar expansion and new employment opportunities, the news is good and getting better. 
Also of note is the new RHSHC Clinic in Elma, Protivin’s new Community Fire Station and the Wapsi - Great Western Line Trail completion connecting Elma to Riceville.
“This past year alone,” Passmore offered, “our HCBT office was able to supply $260,000 to new or growing businesses with our revolving loan funds. That equated to an additional 13 jobs while retaining another 24 jobs. Currently, we have approximately $800,000 worth of revolving loan fund money in circulation with our businesses and have the capacity to continue to do more. 
“We authored and were awarded over a half a million dollars in grant funds for various projects and supported growth in our county tourism that has seen a 9% increase over the last decade.”
With such positive numbers ringing in everyone’s ears, Passmore introduced keynote speaker Ashley Hinson, United States Representative of Iowa’s First District.
 Congresswoman Ashley Hinson
Representative Ashley Hinson spoke, first and foremost, about the importance of telling Iowa’s stories to the seats of power. “My job is to go out to Washington, D.C. and tell your stories,” she said “And that is, I think, the best part of my job.”
She spoke about being grounded by her weekly trips back home to stay in touch with what Northeast Iowans are thinking about and need. “D.C. is a very divisive place,” she said, “but nothing keeps me humble like coming home to Iowa.”
“It’s really important to me to make sure I’m hearing from you,” she went on, “because D.C. needs a lot of Iowa common sense, and I can assure you that I’m home every weekend to make sure I am hearing from you.” 
Noting that she has visited all 20 counties in her district every quarter to keep up with what is happening in rural communities, she added, “It is about taking your stories and your feedback out to Washington, D.C. because, if I’m not listening to you, I’m not doing my job.” She also mentioned she’s on the House Appropriations Committee and considers it part of her job to make sure Iowa tax dollars get re-invested in Iowa.
Hinson told about her work with veterans’ issues and about helping champion a law to force VA hospitals to have a better system for triaging veterans who come to the VA in crisis. 
After Hinson wrapped up, Passmore invited banquet attendees to meet Hinson and teased of her return later in the year with a couple of major VIPs. He also thanked Spiff Slifka and Missy Hvitved for all their work putting together the banquet before handing the mic off to CEO of RHSHC and President of Howard County Economic Development (HCED), Robin Schluter for closing remarks.
Schluter expanded on the theme of thriving through the shutdown over COVID. She reminded all that, through the “tumultuous waters” of the pandemic, HCED and HCBT were there, as were volunteers, “throwing businesses life preservers” of education, support and pandemic relief funding. 
“Now, as we swim our way out of the muddy waters and pull ourselves back up on to the shore, we have solid footing,” she said, noting that, along with other examples of thriving businesses cited earlier, two different USDA grants have been awarded to expand Protivin’s fire station and RHSHC’s clinic. “What we see is all of this activity happened in, and because of, a community that is supportive, generous and innovative,” she declared, “and our future is on solid ground, going forward.”

Cresco Times

Phone: 563-547-3601
Fax: 563-547-4602

Cresco TPD
214 N. Elm Street
Cresco, IA 52136

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