Cultivating the next generation of leaders through strategic engagement and development opportunities.
The Emerging Leaders Cabinet is a committee of our Board of Directors comprised specifically of people under the age of 40 from throughout our southwest Minnesota region. All come from different walks of life, and represent the diversity of our great region.
The role of the committee is to explore current realities and trends and to create avenues of influence for this group of leaders.
The ELC was launched in February 2017 and is led by Board Chair Bob Thurston and Director of Community Philanthropy Liz Cheney.
Mortgage Banker, First State Bank Southwest
Growing up observing his father’s work in the family business in Chandler, MN, Jordan knew that, in some fashion, his future lay in the business world. After graduating with a degree in Business from Dordt College, Jordan accepted a position with First State Bank Southwest, first as an agricultural loan officer for the Pipestone area, and now as the Worthington market area mortgage lender. He has a special interest in housing issues and can share knowledge with the Cabinet regarding the various southwest MN communities in which he has lived and worked. Jordan wishes to serve on the Emerging Leaders Cabinet with the aim of growing both personally and professionally. “I also understand the valuable work that SWIF does in the southwest MN area … and I want to do my part to see this Cabinet grow and be successful.”
Paraprofessional, Willmar Public Schools
Fardowsa immigrated to the United States from Somalia in 2013. Prior to leaving her home country, she was involved with the Boys & Girls Club for 5 years. She is now founder and CEO of the Somali Youth Organization in Willmar. Fardowsa says she looks forward to building her leadership and communication skills through the Emerging Leaders Cabinet. She is also eager to learn from other communities.
Economic Development Coordinator, Renville County
After growing up in Willmar, Susie graduated from Eagan High School and the School of Environmental Studies at the Minnesota Zoo. She earned a Marketing and Business Degree from Southwest Minnesota State University. Over the past eight years she has worked for the Renville County Housing and Economic Development Authority, first as the Development Assistant and now as the Economic Development Coordinator. Susie is currently training with the International Economic Development Council to become a Certified Economic Developer. She has served with numerous community organizations and, with her family, is involved with the Army National Guard. “I have a passion for southwest Minnesota and I want to see its communities and residents flourish. As Gandhi said ‘Be the change you want to see in the World’ and I want to be part of that change in my communities.” Susie lives in Olivia with her husband Andrew and two sons Elliot and Jonas.
Bank President, CenBank
Don was born and raised in a small rural Wyoming town. Working through school, he earned his bachelors in business and then graduated from the Graduate School of Banking at Colorado. Relocating to Minnesota in 2006, Don now serves as bank president of CenBank in Hutchinson. He finds great satisfaction in helping people achieve their dreams as part of their financial family. “My journey has brought me from the mountains of Wyoming to the lakes of Minnesota. I understand the struggles of people in all classes and appreciate the hard work that people put in everyday to achieve their goals. As a parent of two young kids and as a community banker, I have a substantial interest in the future of southwest Minnesota. I subscribe to the idea that we should strive to improve the world around us whenever possible, and the Emerging Leaders Cabinet would be an avenue to make a long-lasting contribution.”
Watershed Project Manager, Middle Fork Crow River Watershed District
Jonathan’s father emigrated from Mexico after meeting his mother in Puerto Vallarta. Having grown up immersed in two very different cultures, he appreciates diversity and seeks it out. Through high school and college, Jonathan’s desire grew to connect with people to help the environment, which he has been able to do through his work with organizations such as The Center for Sustainable Community Development, Yellowstone National Park, Prairie Woods ELC, Youth Energy Summit, and now in his position with the Middle Fork Crow River Watershed District. Jonathan says, “I would like to engage our communities in ways that excite them and motivate them to do good. Another draw for me is the fact that this is in its early stages and we, as the first cabinet, will have the responsibility and opportunitiy to shape this for future emerging leaders.”
Graphic Designer, Vivid Image
Karlie, a graphic designer for Vivid Image, moved to Hutchinson 5 years ago and has been steadily becoming more involved in the community through the Hutchinson Leadership Institute. She also serves on the board of the Hutchinson Center for the Arts and has worked with Relay for Life for the past two years.
Karlie says she likes to see change happen and finds it rewarding to see ideas come to life. “One thing that has always been a goal of mine is to help change people’s lives. Being on the Emerging Leaders Cabinet is a way for me to make a difference and seek change to benefit others. SWIF does great work for southwest Minnesota, and I’d like to be a part of it.”
Cultural Liaison, Willmar Public Schools
Ayan came to the United States in 2006, without her parents, at the age of 14. “I kind of raised myself,” she says. Now a Cultural Liaison at Willmar Schools, Ayan assists new Somali families and their preschool-age children. Although Ayan has not held many leadership roles yet, she says, “I want to be a strong leader and learn others’ cultural stories and share mine with them too.”
Director of Client Services, The Link
Chasity is Director of Client Services at The Link, an interfaith community outreach organization that connects people to the human, organizational, and financial resources they need. “My goal is to treat others with respect and meet them where they are. I have personal experience with financial instability, mental health issues, and chemical abuse, and sharing these experiences with others breaks down fears and strengthens trust.” Chasity is passionate about making positive change in her own community and beyond and is excited for the opportunity to serve and grow as a leader on the Emerging Leaders Cabinet.
Owner, Singvongsa Landscaping
Chanthavy is a self-made entrepreneur and owner of Singvongsa Landscaping. Experience has been his teacher—Chant says that everything he’s learned about leadership and being a business owner has come from his own successes and failures: “I’ve started many businesses and failed at many too. Failure can be your biggest teacher.” Chant says he struggled to find himself growing up and at one point turned to drugs and alcohol. However, he overcame those addictions and has since found family and work to be his life motivators. Chant views the Cabinet as an opportunity to help and inspire others while also learning and growing as an individual.
Seed Corn Broker, Thurston, Inc.
A native of Olivia, Rob is an entrepreneur who enjoys leading people to success. After college, Rob spent several years in the furniture business and now serves as president of Thurston, Inc., a seed corn brokerage firm. He also owns and operates a sign and graphic business. Rob and his wife Abby reside in Olivia with their two daughters, Mara and Ellie. He has volunteered with several community organizations and has a passion for learning new skills and improving his knowledge base. Regarding the ELC, Rob says, “I believe our emerging leaders need a voice in southwest Minnesota, and this cabinet can provide networking opportunities and access to key leaders in our communities.”
Owner, Fiesta Time Rentals
Robert was born in Texas, moved to rural Minnesota in 1995, and earned his business administration degree with a minor in Economics. As the former director of the Willmar Area Multicultural Business Center, Robert tackled the challenges of poverty and creating opportunity through economic development. Today he owns two companies in Minnesota and a partnership company in an outstate venture. Robert serves his community as time allows through organizations such as the Latino Service Network Providers, Vision 2040, and AVF Church. Regarding the ELC, he says,“I feel I am uniquely well positioned to understand the challenges and assets affecting Latinos in our state today. My vision is for us to unite around common issues and work collaboratively to advance the common good of all Minnesotans through intentional actions.”
Youth Development Leader, Nobles County Integration Collaborative
Jessica is the Youth Development Leader for the Nobles County Integration Collaborative, a consortium of adjacent school districts that promotes student success and acceptance of cultural differences. As a younger Chicana woman with biracial children and as someone who works with high school students, Jessica feels her life experiences have given her an expanded worldview. She says, “I want my children to grow up knowing that they can achieve far beyond what they envision. I want to show the youth I work with that we are able to be decision makers, that our voices matter, and people are waiting to listen. I want to dip my toes in this venture and show them that the coast is clear for them.”
Walnut Grove, MN
Education & Volunteer Services Coordinator, United Way of Southwest MN
Sarah grew up in Walnut Grove and chose to stay and raise her children there as well. She believes small communities are full of opportunities for those who wish to find and nurture them. Sarah is the Education & Volunteer Services Coordinator for United Way of Southwest Minnesota, where she works with the internal Education initiatives while engaging volunteers in a variety of supportive roles. Sarah’s leadership roles thus far have taught her the importance of relationship building, and she says “a successful leader should do more listening than talking.” Sarah wishes to serve on the Emerging Leaders Cabinet first and foremost because she loves southwest Minnesota and wants to create positive change. This quote from Marjorie Moore resonates deeply with Sarah: “Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once in a while, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.”