Archived Story

Letter to the Editor: A thanks to Vision 2020 volunteers

Published 10:23am Friday, May 17, 2013

A year ago, friends and neighbors, business executives, community leaders — residents from every corner of our community — came together to launch Vision 2020, a bold program to shape the future of Austin and Mower County. What an amazing beginning to a journey that will take us into the next decade — and beyond!

Since then, more than 300 volunteers have dedicated their time and talents to this effort. A year ago, 10 committees formed — one in support of each idea or “Vision Statement” that had been selected from literally thousands of suggestions — and to begin turning those visions into reality.

As we begin Year Two of Vision 2020, we know that there is still much more to be done, but it’s also very appropriate that we pause to thank our volunteers for their work in planning, researching, funding and completing projects. We could not have asked for more progress in the last 12 months.

Much of that progress can be credited to the passion and dedication of our committee chairs and co-chairs. Special thanks to Community Recreation Center Chair Matt Cano and Co-Chair Tanya Medgaarden; Waterways Chair Sam Jewell and Co-Chair Heath Garey; Gateway to Austin Chair John Gray and Co-Chair Lynn Spainhower; Austin Utilities Building Chairs Bonnie Rietz and Mary Anne Wolesky; Education Leaders Chair Randy Kramer and Co-Chair Jana Haynes; Destination Downtown Chair Stephnee Leathers and Co-Chair Sarah Douty; Business Friendly Environment Chair Jim Heilman and Co-Chair Rick Jaacks; Community Pride and Spirit Chair Kristen Olson and Co-Chair Patty Stevens; Community Wide Technology Chair Chris Holt and Co-Chair Mark Nibaur; Bike/Walk Trail Chair Steve Kime and Co-Chair Jim Burroughs.

Our deepest thanks also go to the many organizations that have partnered with us, in various capacities, in our work: the Austin Area Chamber of Commerce, Austin Area Commission for the Arts (Paramount Theatre), Austin Area Foundation, Austin Artworks Festival, Austin Community Charitable Fund, Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau, Austin Country Club, Austin Downtown Alliance, Austin Farmers Market, Austin Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Austin Utilities, Blandin Foundation, the City of Austin including Park and Recreation, the City Engineer, the Community Development department and staff, Development Corporation of Austin, Habitat for Humanity Freeborn/Mower, The Hormel Institute, Hormel Foods Corp., The Hormel Foundation, th Hormel Historic Home, Austin Public Schools, the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center, Jones Family Foundation, Main Street Project, Mayo Clinic Health System — Albert Lea and Austin, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Department of Transportation, Noon Lions, Pacelli Catholic School, Parenting Resource Center, Quality Pork Processors Inc., Riverland Community College, STRIVE Network, Southern Minnesota Bike Club, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, the Welcome Center, and the YMCA of Austin.

Let us close, though, with a request. Our first year was a great success but we have miles to go and we need YOU to help us get there. Vision 2020 is a long-term project, one that needs even more volunteers and strategic partners. If you or your organization would like to join in the exciting process of improving Austin’s quality of life, please contact Laura Helle at the Vision 2020 office. She can be reached at 507-437-3448 or

Thank you, Austin, for your passion, your commitment and your engagement in our community. Because of you, the vision for Austin and Mower County is bright.



Vision 2020 Steering Committee: Gary Ray (Chair), Scott Aakre, Geoff Baker, Sandy Forstner, John Garry, John Gray, Craig Hoium, Tamm Kritzer, Yesenia Mendoza, Chet Rao, Bonnie Rietz, Mandi Lighthizer-Schmidt, Jeff Thatcher and Jake Vela

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