Shane and Nicole Heldstab, Crookston, received special recognition at the Emerging Leadership Program Recognition Banquet on March 30th in Crookston.  Representing West Polk County, they, along with individuals from 13 other counties in northwestern and west central Minnesota were honored for completing the leadership program and for their commitment to leadership in their community.

    Also honored at the banquet were Bryce and Andrea Stordahl of McIntosh, representing East Polk County.

    The Emerging Leadership Program celebrated their 35th year by honoring Bruce and Aase Hamnes with the Friend of the Emerging Leadership Program award. Bruce was the Marshall County King Agassiz in 1976 and was the impetus for the evolution from King Agassiz to the Emerging Leadership Program. Bruce told the audience about how an idea, when nurtured, can grow into a program with 35 years of history and 1147 alumni. Bruce and Aase were thanked for their continued support of the program.

    Other guests that evening were Extension Regional Directors, Lisa Loegering (Crookston) and Ben Anderson (Moorhead), Kent Olson, Extension Center for Community Vitality Associate Dean, Mary Holz-Clause, Chancellor of University of Minnesota Crookston, and Northwest Minnesota Foundation Development Officer Dawn Ganje, who each offered their comments about leadership and congratulated program participants.

    The banquet program featured leadership stories by class participants, Eric Rice (Morris), Kristen Haase (Thief River Falls), and Justin Phillips (Rothsay).     

    There was also the announcement of new Agassiz Ambassadors for 2020, Justin and Karen Phillips (Rothsay), who were selected for this honor from among other current participants in the program based on nominations from program participants and interviews with program alumni. Justin and Karen will put their leadership skills to work in public relations, recognition, and community leadership, and will work with Extension staff to develop and deliver the educational program in 2020.

    The recognition banquet was the finale of the leadership program for the Class of 2019 after taking part in four training sessions since November 2018.

    Program seminars focused on several of the University of Minnesota Extension’s educational program components to strengthen civic leadership in the region.

    The Emerging Leadership Program, a program of the University of Minnesota Extension, was created in 1985 to build skills in individuals while creating and sustaining a network of leaders in the northwest and west central regions of Minnesota to focus on rural issues. The banquet carried on the tradition of recognizing rural leaders started by the Red River Valley Winter Shows in 1961.

    The Emerging Leadership Program is led by Extension Educators Brian Fredrickson, Lisa Hinz and Jody Horntvedt, in partnership with over 1,100 alumni throughout the region. Soon those alumni will be coming together to select new participants for the program. To nominate someone in your county or to apply for the program, contact Jan Jackola at the Moorhead Regional Extension Office at 218-236-2001. For more information about the program contact Jody,, and be sure to look for the Emerging Leadership Program at