The Lanesboro Area Chamber of Commerce held its annual meeting, virtually, on Wednesday, January 25, with storyteller Al Batt as its special guest speaker. Board President Joe Goetzke presided over the meeting and shared several personal reflections about the Chamber and his time in Lanesboro. Executive Director Andrzej Zalasinski reviewed the past year, highlighted marketing campaigns and recognized the Chamber board members, staff and volunteers. Throughout the night, each touched on the “magic” of Lanesboro and how its community members contribute to its charm.
Goetzke explained that he has completed his first term on the board of directors and noted he was a relatively new resident of Lanesboro when he joined in 2020.
“By most definitions of the word, I was an outsider to the community, and certainly to this organization. However, reflecting back on my early days in the community and at the Chamber, at no time did I ever feel unwelcome, or like I didn’t belong,” he said. “In fact, quite the opposite was true.”
He said Lanesboro has a special way of making one feel welcome and making individuals want to do whatever they can to play an active role in shaping the community.
“To me, this is part of the Magic of Lanesboro – all are welcome, and everyone’s energy and ideas can and do have a chance to make a real difference in the community,” he added.
Goetzke complimented the Chamber board, staff and businesses for their “grit, resilience and tough choices” made throughout the pandemic, but most of all he complimented them all for their cautious optimism.
“We had to work together to come up with solutions to safely promote the town while acknowledging and respecting the unprecedented times we were in, all while not being able to gather or work together in person,” he said.
In 2022, Goetzke stepped into the role as board president and he said his hopes for the Chamber were simple. “I wanted us to keep building on the momentum we were seeing coming out of the worst of the pandemic and rekindle those visions of growth and optimism from pre-pandemic times. I also wanted to help the Chamber continue our increased collaboration with other organizations in the community.”
Considering board members and business members are all active in multiple organizations, that collaboration is made possible through communication and knowledge of what other organizations are working towards.
“I firmly believe that we all do better when we work together towards a shared goal, which is truly fitting with the values of collaboration, culture, and commitment the Chamber espouses,” he said.
Goetzke moved to Lanesboro when he accepted a position at the Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center. Since joining the Lanesboro community, he and his wife have had two children, family members who have moved to Lanesboro and others who are currently in the process of building a business in Lanesboro.
“How does all that happen in the span of a handful of years? Is there something in the water here? Or is Lanesboro truly magical?,” he asked.
Sharing his story helps provide an example of how Lanesboro can draw people in and how it becomes a part of one’s identity. Many, like he and his wife, then make a decision to move to Lanesboro and raise their families.
“I want to thank you all for giving that to me and my family,” Goetzke said. “You helped shape this place into the wonderful community it is and made it the place we decided to call home. I look forward to working with you all to keep sprinkling the magic of Lanesboro on other unsuspecting victims and continuing to make this community the very best place to work, live, and play.”
Zalasinski highlighted the “magic” once again as he acknowledged and thanked former board members, current board members and volunteers who make the Chamber a strong community organization.
Special acknowledgements were given to Hal Cropp who served on the board for nine years, just recently completing two terms, with six consecutive years on the board. “It has been a true honor to serve you all and the Chamber,” Cropp noted. “Thank you for your belief.”
Also acknowledged for his six years of service to the Chamber, Matt Schultz was also grateful and noted, “I’ve really enjoyed my time and thank you to everyone.”
Zalasinski also took a moment to honor two board members who passed away in 2022. Fred Kiel was the owner of Sacred Clay Inn and Steve Sobieniak was owner of the Root River Rod, Co.
“Both of them were part of our family and part of our Chamber of Commerce,” he said. “They were instrumental in all of what we were doing and we will not forget their work on the board. Going forward, we will build upon their steps.”
Current board members were introduced, including Goetzke, Alison Leathers from the Cottage House Inn, Kara Maloney from Lanesboro Arts, Andrew Darling from Parkway Market & Coffeehouse, Lance Prado from Root River Rod, Co., and Jeff Sanders of Bluffscape Amish Tours.
When Batt took the mic for the night, he chose to speak about his heroes, which included musician Eubie Blake, his grandmother and author Henry James.
Giving his grandmother top billing, Batt shared that his grandmother thought there were three things you need to remember to lead a happy life.
First, never walk by two restroom doors. “I was a young boy when she told me this and I thought it was the dumbest thing ever, but I have since learned it makes a lot of sense,” he said.
The second, never miss an opportunity to put your feet up, which Batt said he discovered to be true when he was sitting in an airport waiting for a flight. “I looked around the terminal and noticed that everyone had their feet propped up on something,” he said.
Finally, his grandmother said to never let a kind word go unsaid. “I’ve tried to take all three of these to heart and try to follow them all,” he said.
“I love Lanesboro, y’all,” Batt continued. “I’ve spent quite a bit of time there and I’m going to say, I love the Lanesboro area. You have so many wonderful things and I know there are many more I have yet to discover.”
One of Blake’s life lessons that Batt follows was to be grateful for luck. “We’re all still here because of luck and I am grateful luck has brought me to speak to you tonight,” Batt said.
Another, close to Batt’s heart, was that Blake said to “listen to the birds,” which he shared has been a healing presence in his life. “I say we should listen to everybody and sometimes, we need to listen to the silence. It is healing.”
Finally, Batt shared wise words from Henry James, who felt there were three things important in a human life. “The first one was, ‘be kind.’ Wow, that would be on my Mom’s list,” he said. “Then the second most important thing on his list was ‘be kind.’ And the third most important thing on his list, I started seeing a trend here, was ‘be kind.’”
Batt concluded by leaving the group with just a few words of gratitude, “I appreciate you all very, very much – thank you and bless you for all the good work you do. I hope to see you all again, I love Lanesboro.”
The annual meeting concluded with a discussion regarding the budget and marketing plans for 2023. Other business items included approval of minutes from the 2022 annual meeting and the announcement of new board members, elected by ballot prior to the meeting. They are Sheryl Johnson from Cedar Valley Resort, Marti Gray from the James A. Thompson House and Jeremy van Meter from the Commonweal Theatre. Goetzke, Leathers and Prado were also re-elected to the board.