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When Nate Parde decided to join the inaugural campaign of Leading Locally, he was simply looking for a way to understand his community a little better and make a few new connections.

Parde, a Geneva native, serves as the community president of lending at Bank of the Valley in Bellwood. Living in David City, Parde learned of an opportunity being provided by Nebraska Extension-Butler County that would offer participants a chance to bolster their leadership skills, discover the varied facets of the county, reveal community assets and complete a community service project.

“I thought this would be a good way to meet people who want to make Butler County a better place, to move it forward,” Parde said. “I enjoy being here and thought it would be a good way to meet new people in the community, especially those people who want to advance the county in the right direction.”

Parde and nine others recently graduated from the approximately eight-month-long course earlier this month during a ceremony held in downtown David City. The cost of the program was $100, with half being offset by the Butler County Area Foundation Fund. Classes were held from 10 a.m. through 2 p.m. once monthly starting in October, and most employers were extremely accommodating with letting employees take off time to participate, said Kurt Mantonya, course instructor and community vitality educator for Nebraska Extension.

Each month, a new topic was covered. Each topic was one deemed of vital importance by Mantonya and Nebraska Extension. Course content included: Getting to Know Your County, From Vision to Action, Attracting Newcomers to your Community, Social Media Marketing, My Leadership Style, Strengthening Membership, Building Strategic Partnerships and Community Philanthropy.

Course graduates were: Austin Witmer, Parde, Kirstin Bailey, Ashley Witmer, Kelli Luebbert, Kristina Strong, Dulcie Archuleta, Kate Slama, Cherie Meysenburg and Ali Prochaska.

“I met a lot of great people that I became friends with and whom I can collaborate with,” Parde said. “We found out about a lot of the assets Butler County has today and how we can make them more known to everyone in the community and surrounding areas so that everyone knows what a great place Butler County is.”

Mantonya noted that a similar course was offered several years ago, but that it ultimately phased out. That course was analyzed, refined, and reintroduced as the new Leading Locally campaign. Most participants this go-round were 30 years old or less and are people Nebraska Extension representatives view as real movers and shakers heading into the future.

“You look at what leads to success. And a lot of times it’s a cadre of volunteers and committed people and resources,” Mantonya said. “And then you think about what you want Butler County to look like in 20 years if money wasn’t a limit and resources were no limit. So you can have these grandiose ideas, but that is where the meat and potatoes really come in. You have to figure out what we as a community can do to get there.”

During their Vision to Action session, members brainstormed about what some “visions” were that could benefit the county, and how they could take that vision and transform it into action.

They decided collectively to host a community cleanup day, where county residents could haul in loads of old or unusable household items. In late April, 57 people – at a $10 expense per vehicle – dropped off old appliances like TVs, air conditioning units, mattresses and other unwanted items to the tune of 8 ½ tons.

Prior to the cleanup campaign, Leading Locally participants for several months worked on the different aspects of the project, like finding a date and location, working with local roll-off company to secure dumpsters, rounding up volunteers and tackling marketing and advertising.

It was a collaborative effort, Parde said, adding that networking with community members is paramount to achieve any level of community success.

“It’s really the bloodline of a community,” Parde said. “It’s what gets people to come back and make a community better.”

A second Leading Locally class is planned for fall of this year. Details will be provided in the upcoming months. For more information, those interested are encouraged to reach Mantonya at kmantonya3@unl.edu.

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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News Editor

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram, Schuyler Sun and The Banner-Press newspapers. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2015.

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