Editor's note: "Butler County Faces" is a monthly feature. The stories aim to spotlight the different people who call Butler County home. To make a suggestion for a profile, email us at DVDnews@lee.net, and include "Butler County Faces" in the subject line. Please include the any relevant contact information for the person and a bit about who they are. All suggestions will be considered. Read previously published stories on our website!
Given the chance, longtime Butler County Extension Office Manager Louise Niemann will proudly talk about her family and community.
“It’s home,” she said of her native Butler County.
She coyly mentions, when prompted, a recent award she was given: The Nebraska Association of County Extension Boards earlier this month presented her its 2019 Outstanding Support Staff honor. It’s an award given to one person across the state. She was nominated by her fellow Butler County Extension office team members, something that she takes the most pride in.
“They value the work I do and decided to recognize me,” she explained, noting her fellow staffers and local Extension educators Katelyn Pleskac, Melissa Bartels and Kurt Mantonya. “I remember at one time we had no educators in Butler County and now we have three educators – it’s pretty exciting. Keeping this office running as a team really is an exciting piece.”
Sure Niemann is known for her work in the local Extension office, but it’s hardly what defines her. She’s a wife, mom of four and advocate for not only David City but Butler County as a whole.
“Her knowledge of not just Extension but Butler County, in general, is really impressive to me,” said Mantonya, a Butler County Extension educator with a focus on community vitality. “She has cast a really big network and is invested in the community. We’re very fortunate to have her here. She is always willing to help and always goes above and beyond to find that help.”
It could be argued Niemann was destined for a life in agriculture as she was born into a family of farmers and lived on a farm in the Brainard area alongside her older brother, two older sisters and one younger sister.
“We grew up and went to a country school, so it really was about the farm. We had cats, dogs, cows and chickens,” she recalled, noting church has always been an important part of her life stemming from her childhood. “It was a total farm experience back in the ’60s. The older siblings had to milk the cows, and us younger siblings had to take care of the chickens and ducks. And, of course, I loved our horses.”
Despite working hard and living the good life on the farm, Niemann decided to pursue a different passion upon graduating from David City High School: Hair.
“I went to cosmetology school. My first occupation was being a beautician, a hairstylist,” she said.
It really wasn’t that big of a stretch. Niemann had been fixing her mother’s hair religiously since she was just 12.
“I did haircuts, perms, all of it,” she said. “It just seemed like a natural thing to do. It was kind of arts, it was fun.”
She went to work for Mary Jane Oltman for five years before stepping away to spend more time with her husband and raise her family.
FINDING HER WAY
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When Niemann decided to go back to work, she found a good opportunity at her Alma mater: David City Public Schools. She worked for the district from the mid-1980s well into the 1990s.
“I worked in the preschool program and then I was a para, and then I was an elementary librarian,” she said of her 14 years in the district.
As a librarian, Niemann found herself doing tons of research with her students and helping her own children work with the local 4-H program. Her youngest child was graduating from David City High just as the office manager position at the local Extension office opened up. So, she decided it was the perfect time to pursue it.
“It was kind an easy switch,” she said.
In 2008, Niemann decided to take a new job yet again – that time at U.S. Bank in David City working as a teller coordinator.
“It was a good opportunity,” she said.
Just a few years later, Niemann was compelled to go back to her old job as office manager of the local extension office. She desired to get back to working with youth and being even more in service to the community. She has been there ever since.
“It’s the variety of what we do,” Niemann said of what she loves most about being the office manager for Extension. “The idea that things are never the same and always moving forward.”
Niemann relishes spending time with her husband, Gary, originally of the Dwight area, and their family. The couple has four grown children: Leslie Neujahr (of Neujahr Home Center in David City); Crystal Small (a nurse at Butler County Clinic); Sophie Hermelbracht (a preschool teacher for East Butler Public Schools); and Gary Jr. (who lives in Lincoln and works for Lee Aerospace). They also have eight grandchildren.
“Family is very important,” she stressed.
When Niemann has spare time, she spends it volunteering to help push the community forward successfully.
She has been a very active member at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church (she has shared her knowledge of faith through teaching Sunday school, confirmation classes and vacation bible school, and has been a member of the United Methodist Women for many years). She’s highly involved in the David City High School Alumni Association, started Rural Food Connection to help those in need of food, toiletries and a place to connect with others. She is on the board of directors for the Bone Creek Museum of Agrarian Art and has promoted numerous environmental causes in the area, such as several scrap tire efforts, among other things.
Additionally, she was a co-chair for the David City High School renovation and Butler County Detention Center bond issues as well as was part of the team advocating for building the Butler County Event Center.
Niemann undoubtedly has no plans to ever leave Butler County – she takes pride in her rural homeland, noting there is no place else quite like it. She’s determined to help outsiders understand what Butler County has to offer.
“It provides so many opportunities for people,” she said. “I’m involved in so many organizations, and that’s because I believe in my community. I want it to be attractive to everyone who stops through.”
Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at email@example.com.