Following a new vision; Helle leaving Vision 2020 for job at Riverland Community College

Published 10:17 am Thursday, September 10, 2015

Laura Helle has been the head of Vision 2020 since its inception, but now has announced she is stepping down from the position.  Eric Johnson/

Laura Helle has been the head of Vision 2020 since its inception, but now has announced she is stepping down from the position.
Eric Johnson/

Vision 2020’s leader announced she is leaving the group at the end of the month.

Laura Helle will step down as Vision 2020’s director of vision creation on Sept. 30 to become director of grants and alumni affairs, a new position, at Riverland Community College. Helle, who has spent three years leading Vision 2020, said she’s seen a myriad of changes and progress over that time.

“Taken as a whole, it is just gobsmacking how much Austin has done in the last three years,” she said. “And I think the next three are going to be just as accomplished and we’ll see just as many changes.”

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Helle started as a Vision 2020 steering committee member during the idea selection process before being hired in September of 2012.

Helle said she will most miss working with the many volunteers on the several community projects, especially the community’s willingness to give back.

“The feeling that I’m going to remember the most is just over and over being inspired by what our community is willing to give,” she said, noting people have given time, expertise, dollars and a spirit of being inspired to improve the community.

Starting something with the scope of Vision 2020 hasn’t been without its challenges and work wasn’t always easy.

“It has been a challenging job, and that’s one of the things that I enjoyed about it,” she said.

For example, Helle said it was a tall task to maintain positivity as she and committee leaders have “glacial decision making” in working on projects like the rec center, but she said that committee’s leaders deserve credit for their hard work.

Vision 2020 Steering Committee Co-Chairman Andrew Kepper said he can see the positive impact Helle has had on Austin through the accomplishments and progress of the the committees.

“We’re sorry to see her go and we wish her the best of luck,” he said.

Vision 2020 is finalizing a job description and will post the job opening shortly to seek Helle’s replacement.

Kepper thanked Helle for her time with Vision 2020.

“We really appreciate all of the hard work that she has done over the past several years,” he said.

Bonnie Rietz, a former Vision 2020 steering committee member and vice president of the Hormel Foundation, praised Helle for her skills in helping committees move forward and working with volunteers.

“Laura has done an extraordinary job of getting Vision 2020 to where we are now,” Rietz said.

Rietz noted Helle is skilled working with grants and securing money, but she described the Riverland job as a great opportunity.

“We will miss her, she really has done a wonderful job,” Rietz said.

Helle grew up in Victor, Iowa, and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Iowa State University. She moved to Austin in 2001 and previously worked as the executive director of the Hormel Historic Home.

Helle said the Riverland job will give her good benefits through the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System and more regular hours for her family. She starts at Riverland on Oct. 5.

“I’m really proud to be staying in Austin,” Helle said. “And I am committed to living and working in Austin. This is my adopted home.”