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W Marti Wermager

Jill Mack

LeAnn Mouw


Jackie Schiller


A Special section saluting area women for their contributions to the lakes area community.

Jenny Lessman


Staff of American National Bank

Tami Hunt



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Police work is in her blood DL investigator is her father’s daughter all the way


From a young age, Tami Hunt knew what she’d be doing when she grew up — even if it did take her a few years before she decided to go to college and pursue that dream. “My dad (Tom Hunt) was sheriff, so it’s always been in my blood. I always knew what I wanted to do,” she said. Her mother is an attorney in town, so law has been in her family for many years. In her 11th year at the Detroit Lakes Police Department, Hunt has been working as an investigator since January of 2010. “There’s always a story,” that comes with her line of work, she said. And this is hers. Working at Zorbaz for several years after high school — she still works there from time to time — and part-time with the county auxiliary deputies for a period of time, she graduated from college at age 29 and got a job as dispatcher for the county. After working there for six months, she applied at the DLPD and has been there ever since. “It’s the first job I applied for,” she said. And possibly the last.


Hunt said she loves her job and has no intention of leaving it. “I’m happy here. I have awesome partners and an awesome chief.” After being hired, she spent 14 weeks being trained in by Rob Wertz and her now-boss Police Chief Tim Eggebraaten. Up until her switch to investigator in January of 2010, she had worked afternoons and nights for the first 10 years of her career. “I reached that point: I think I can do this,” she said of applying for the investigator spot. “I miss patrol though,” she admits. Being involved in high-speed pursuits and breaking up bar fights are not duties she regularly sees as an investigator. Now she has a different challenge — catching criminals. She keeps busy with her Monday through Friday day job, and no day is ever the same. Every morning she looks through the initial complaint reports from the previous day, and if someone is arrested, she makes sure everything is in order to present to the city attorney. “There’s always something waiting for work on my desk. My organizational skills are getting tested. Or lack

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Tami hunt knew from a young age that she would be a part of the police force. of organizational skills, anyway,” she said with a laugh. She works on cases from child protection to writing bad checks, and she also helps patrol if needed. (She still has the knack for helping people who have locked their keys in their cars.) She is also in charge of keeping track of predatory offenders. “It’s not as glamorous as it is on TV,” she said. Ironically enough, she said her job at Zorbaz actually taught her lessons to bring to her job with the police department. For one, it’s a small kitchen, and workers have to be careful working in close quarters. Secondly, not all teenagers are bad ones. “When you run into kids at night, they’re usually in trouble,” she said. But working with them at Zorbaz on a regular basis, she’s learned they’re not all bad and first impressions are inaccurate at times.

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“They’ve kept me young and more positive,” she said of her young Zorbaz co-workers. For Hunt, getting away from the job and balancing life isn’t that tough. She lives out of town on a farm with horses, dogs, cats, pigs, gardens and even peacocks. “It’s perfect. When I get up in the morning, there’s trees and silence.” It didn’t always come that easy, though. She said it took her several years to be able to separate work from personal life. Now she has friends that don’t focus on her career and she finds other things to focus on instead. Riding in squad cars with her dad since she was 12 years old, Hunt said she was “born into it. It was in my blood.” And something else she took away from her dad’s experience in law enforcement that has served her well: “People are people, they’re human. No matter what they’ve done, you have to treat them with respect.”

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For Wermager, it’s all about the people Director of local real estate association loves working with agents BY PIPPI MAYFIELD

When Marti Wermager married and moved to the area, she wasn’t doing the job she was entirely suited for. “I never really saw people. It was so isolating for me,” she said. Originally from Moorhead, Wermager graduated from college with a job in medical sales. She moved to Sioux Falls and eventually the Twin Cities, where she met and married her husband, Warren, who had a house on Big Cormorant Lake. They have one son, Riley, 16. After getting married, she moved to her husband’s lake home, and worked from there. But she wasn’t happy. They decided to put their house up for sale and move closer to Detroit Lakes. When they listed their house, their realtor asked why they were moving, and Wermager shared that they were moving into town and she was looking for a different job with more people interaction. The realtor said she might have a job for her. Wermager interviewed and was offered both the job she had previously applied for and the Lakes Country Association of Realtors’ executive officer position the realtor had told her about. She took the latter. “It’s a good fit for me because of my sales background. I was also an office manager and a paralegal (at some point in her career).” And now, working with the realtors and agents she has been with for the last five years is her favorite part of her job. “I like the one-on-one contact,” she said. She also likes that she doesn’t have to deal with the disgruntled people


Marti Wermager wanted a job with more people contact. She found it as the executive officer of the Lakes Country Association of Realtors, which, she said, she loves. with complaints — those go to the state office. As the executive officer, Wermager

said, “It’s always hard to describe what I do. I can’t fit it into two sentences.” She reports to the association’s

board of directors of nine people, and she takes care of everything — paying bills, education for members, organizing meetings, etc. “The board of directors, any decisions they make, it’s my job to carry through with that.” While there are 175 members in the Lakes Country Association of Realtors, there are also 250 members of the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), but many of them are members of both. She works with 82 offices — 53 are real estate offices, with the remainder being banks, lenders and brokers. There are 13 associations in Minnesota — “we’re one of the smallest” — and they cover realtors in Detroit Lakes, Park Rapids, Hawley, Pelican Rapids and Perham. There are no boundaries on the associations though, so any realtor can be a member if they so desire. And with the couple hundred realtors she’s worked with the past five years, she can recognize the agents and members by voice. “I’m usually the first stop,” she said, so she talks to them on a very regular basis. There is a difference between being a member of the association and not — members are realtors, and non-members are agents. The association is also bound by a code of ethics, and as “part of our job here, we enforce that code of ethics.” While she may not be able to pinpoint what she does in just a few sentences, Wermager enjoys juggling it all. “It’s truly just me,” she said of the office. “I envisioned reading magazines and filing my nails,” she said with a laugh, “but I’ve never had time for that!”



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From PR to fundraising St. Mary’s LeAnn Mouw made the switch and never looked back BY PIPPI MAYFIELD

If anyone had asked LeAnn Mouw when she was in college if she thought she’d be a professional fund-raiser, she would have laughed and shook her head. Today, in a nutshell, that’s just want she does — and enjoys it. Growing up in Brainerd and then moving to Moorhead for college, Mouw commuted the first seven years she worked at Essentia Health St. Mary’s in Detroit Lakes. She worked in the marketing and public relations department, a position that matched what she had gone to college for. But in 2003, the St. Mary’s Foundation reorganized and she was offered the job of heading up the foundation, which she took. “Now my primary focus is fundraising and raising money (for the hospital),” she said. And it worked out for the best because when Essentia Health took over St. Mary’s, the majority of the public relations duties “rolled up corporately.” In her foundation role, Mouw oversees six committees made up of volunteers who raise funds for St. Mary’s. “It’s quite rewarding. There’s nothing greater than building a relationship with someone who wants to be charitable.” Mouw works closely with the volunteers and says her job is to “make sure they are armed with the information they need.” She also sets up and runs the meetings with the 50 to 70 volunteers in the foundation. And whatever people can donate, whether it be the volunteers and their time or the citizens or businesses and

their money, it’s all appreciated — “whatever they can donate: their time, talent or treasure.” The employees of St. Mary’s can be included in that as well. Eighty-one percent of St. Mary’s employees give back to the foundation. “We have built such a nice culture of philanthropy,” she said. Whether it’s speaking to a group or one-on-one with someone on the street, Mouw said her position gives her the opportunity to have a healthcare discussion with people and educate them on options and what St. Mary’s can offer them. “It’s way more about the relationship then the giving money.” With her change in positions, Mouw and her husband, Brant, also got a change in scenery. Her new position required them to move to the Detroit Lakes area, which they had no problem doing. “We jumped at the chance to live in lake country,” she said. “I totally see the benefit (of living where the job is).” Brant commutes to Fargo for his work, and the couple now has a child, Carter, 5. Since her relatives aren’t in the area, Mouw said she’s happy to have found a great network of friends through their move to Detroit Lakes and through her position at St. Mary’s. And no matter how hectic work can get, family always comes first. Though her husband and child are priority one, it’s hard to find a balance between career and home life at times. “If I had the answer to that question, I wouldn’t have to work anymore,” she said with a laugh.


Leann mouw never thought her career would basically be a professional fund-raiser, but she said she enjoys building relationships and educating people on their health care options in Detroit Lakes.

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A natural-born organizer Arvig’s Jill Mack loves sales — and working on community events BY PIPPI MAYFIELD

Putting her degree in marketing and communications to good use, between her job at Arvig Communication Systems and her volunteerism with the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce, Jill Mack gets to have the best of both worlds. “It works out really well,� she said. “I work with business customers and help keep them happy and grow them,� she said of the sales part of her life. On the marketing side, she volunteers with the Promotions and Events Committee on the Chamber of Commerce. Now the business relations consultant for ACS, Mack started out in the retail portion of the business and “as people and the company changed, I had the opportunity� to move into sales, she said. In that position, she spends part of her time in the office and part of her

time “out and about� visiting with customers. Covering an area that spans from Hawley to Mahnomen, Twin Valley to Detroit Lakes and everything in between, Mack gets to do quite a bit of onsite visiting with customers, which is her favorite part of the job. “Getting to talk to different people every day, make friends, build good relationships,� she said. On the chamber side of things, “it’s a good fit for me because I love that stuff.� That stuff includes helping to organize and promote chamber and community events such as Light Up the Lakes, Polar Fest, Crazy Daze and the Shop Local 3/50 project. She has also just started on the board of the Detroit Lakes Area College Foundation, an organization that awards scholarships to Minnesota State Community and Technical College students. She is also the vice president of the Detroit Lakes Curling Club. She got involved with community


Jill Mack gets to use her expertise at both her job with ACS and through her involvement with the chamber of commerce. organizations at the encouragement of her employer, and through her work with the chamber and other organizations, it comes full circle and benefits her work at ACS. “It benefits ACS by more than just community support,� she said of getting referrals from networking as

well. And while she enjoys her job and the relationships she’s built with customers, it’s the work of the technicians that she appreciates most. “They do whatever they can for customers, which makes my job a lot easier.�

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Physician’s assistant at Sanford Clinic loves her patients BY PIPPI MAYFIELD

A person’s health is one of the most important things to them, and whom they trust to care for them can be a big deal. That provider knows some of the most personal information about the person. That trust can make for some close relationships, and it can be difficult for the providers to draw the line and find balance between work and family life. Jenny Lessman can attest to that. “It’s extremely tough. That is probably the biggest issue with this job,” she said. “It’s hard to draw the line between them and my family.” Lessman, who works as a physician’s assistant at Sanford Health, has a hectic schedule that takes her all over the county. Working as part of Dr. Jaimie Deraney’s obstetrics/gynecology team, Lessman does outreach in Mahnomen on Tuesdays. “We all do outreach to different locations,” she said. She sees patients, many times pregnant women in their first seven months, so they don’t have to drive to Detroit Lakes to see the doctor as often. On Wednesday mornings, she assists Deraney in surgery, which can be anything from hysterectomies to csections. “One of my favorite days is helping in surgery,” she said. On Wednesday afternoons and Thursdays, she sees patients in the Detroit Lakes clinic. She sees pregnant women, those going through menopause, some with infections, pelvis pain, or other problems. She said it’s hard not to be at work more often because of the relationships she’s built with her patients. In fact, her calendar is booked out about four months in advance with patient appointments. On two Fridays a month, she does outreach in Park Rapids, and one Friday a month she is at the Family Planning clinic in Detroit Lakes.


jenny lessman said her work as a physician’s assistant has provided her with so many relationships with her patients. She has Mondays off. “I always wanted to help people and wanted to be able to find a job that I could get in and out of school and afford the ability to be a mom someday,” she said of going into the career field she chose. Instead of going to school to be a doctor, Lessman said she chose physician’s assistant because less schooling is required and there’s more versatility in the field. For her job, it’s more about learning on the job. She could work in OB/ GYN this year and change to podiatry next year if she wanted, without having to go back to college. A doctor, on the other hand, would have to return to medical school to change specialties, she said. “I’m not so limited in one field. This is a better fit for me,” she said. She has no intention of changing specialties at this point, however. “I can relate to so many issues we’re discussing in the clinic, or will as a

woman.” Some of the favorite aspects of her job, Lessman said, are when she gets to educate young girls about their healthcare options, and when she gets to show new parents their unborn baby via ultrasound for the first time. She finds fulfillment in helping patients get better, and then to hear the thanks. “That’s bigger to me than any paycheck I’ll receive.” And it’s those patients, those cures, those thanks that make it difficult for Lessman to balance her work life and her personal life. “It’s hard for me to draw that line. I really and truly care about them, they’re not just a patient of mine. But,” she counters, “the day I stop caring is the day I should quit my job.” Originally from Nebraska, Lessman attended the University of Nebraska in Lincoln for biology, and got her master’s degree to be a physician’s assistant at the University of Nebraska in Omaha. It was in college that she met her husband,

Josh, who was from Albert Lea. How they ended up in Detroit Lakes, she said, was “on a complete whim.” After college she was planning on taking a job in her hometown in Nebraska, but at the last minute, she decided it wasn’t the right fit for her and turned the job down. A friend of hers, who had just taken a job in Brainerd, showed her the places she had looked for jobs, and Lessman looked in Bemidji and Wahpeton before being asked to come to Detroit Lakes. “The rest is history.” Though the winters are a tad harsher than what she was used to in Nebraska, she and her husband like their home. Maybe not at first because of homesickness, but that’s changed over the six years they’ve been here. “I didn’t even know Detroit Lakes on the map. I didn’t even know it existed,” she said with a laugh. “Now, this is home.” The young couple doesn’t have any kids — yet — but they have two dogs. Another cause near and dear to her heart is raising money and awareness for breast and ovarian cancer treatment. Lessman and her friend Jessica Peterson organized the first Breast and Ovarian Cancer Race in Detroit Lakes this spring, which will be held on Mother’s Day each year, after their mother’s were diagnosed and survived ovarian and breast cancer, respectively. “It was an overwhelming success,” she said of the first race. They raised $5,000, and Lessman said the ultimate goal is to raise enough money to create a non-profit that will pay for cancer screenings that insurance doesn’t cover. Lessman said she has gotten testing done to show that she carries the cancer gene, but many woman can’t afford to get the testing done if it isn’t covered by insurance. “Between personal and family history, and with my dealing with dayto-day practice (cancer screening) is important,” she said.



DECA job has been great fit for Jackie Schiller Helping, working with students has been a joy over last 20-plus years BY PIPPI MAYFIELD

When Jackie Schiller was attending college in the 1980s at what is now M State, she had plans to go into retail. Instead, she got involved with DECA, and took a position with the organization she’s happily been with ever since. “Never in a million years” did she think she’d be working the job she does now — which she said shouldn’t even be classified as a “job” — and even though she has the deadlines, stress and meetings like most other jobs, this one is different. “I’d do it again in a minute — no regrets.” After being involved throughout college, in 1987, she received a call to go to work for the Minnesota organization part time. In 1996, she was also hired part-time to head MN Secondary Business Professionals of America organization as well. Though she works part time for both, she is the sole staff person for both Minnesota career and technical student organizations. It was an instructor at college, Mike Campbell — who was an “awesome motivator” — who got her involved. “I don’t know why I got involved, I just did. I can’t imagine my life without DECA,” she said from her home on Pickerel Lake. From the beginning, Schiller has worked out of a home office, which back when she started, “it was so unheard of at that point. People said, ‘wow, that’s really different.’ I proved them wrong.” Yes, she tends to take more days off in the summer, and it’s easier to work on a rainy day, but it’s never been an issue to separate work from home, she said. It’s actually been very nice. It was nice for Schiller, mother of


Jackie schiller got involved with DECA as a student and now gets to help students as leader of the Minnesota DECA program. Claire, now 17, and Maddy, 15, to be able to see her girls grow up and attend all games and events, rather than having to get them off to daycare and miss many of their firsts. “We have a very non-traditional lifestyle because we can make our own schedules.” When her daughters were younger, her mother came to the house to watch them while Schiller worked, and they formed a close bond with their “Granny” because of that. “That’s been an added bonus,” she said. She also got to expose her daughters to a lot of travel from a young age because of her job. “They got to see the world is much

bigger than Detroit Lakes, bigger than Minnesota.” There are 60 DECA chapters in Minnesota, which Schiller oversees all of them. She works directly with the chapter advisors in the school districts, but said she wishes she got to work more directly with the students. She does get to know the state officers and other students well though. Since she is a staff of one, Schiller serves as a jack-of-all-trades. She does all the promotions for events, plans and implements the DECA events within Minnesota, and takes care of the financial aspects as well. Larger organizations have staff members to take care of all those departments. She doesn’t.

In fact, she just won first place for her 2010-2011 annual report she created and put together. Being without co-workers, Christmas parties and socializing after work with co-workers is the lonely aspect of working from home, but that doesn’t outweigh the benefits of being at home either. “Most of my close friends live across the country,” she said. “I only get to see them a few times a year.” Just one of those times she gets to see friends and advisors is during the biggest event, the International Career Development Conference. About 14,000 attendees from all 50 states, Guam Puerto Rico and Canada come together for the conference. DECA focuses on marketing-based students, and BPA focuses on businessminded students. While the two programs are similar in that they are for students, “they have their own identity and type of student attracted to each organization.” Both though can provide “career exploration, develop strong leadership skills, and develop a sense of pride and confidence.” She said it’s rewarding to know “the work I have done changes young people’s lives.” Besides working with students on the state level, she’s influencing them on the nation level as well. Schiller serves on the national board of directors, which she has also chaired in the past. The success of the organization over the past 60 years, she said, is “because people like myself that stepped up to the plate and served.” In her extra time — “and I never have enough time” — she enjoys golfing, Zumba and quilting. “I can’t imagine doing anything different,” she said of her job with DECA. “It provides me a wonderful opportunity.”



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A close-knit staff Four women at American National Bank do it all — working together BY PIPPI MAYFIELD

Spanning three generations, the four women who make up the entire staff of the American National Bank of Minnesota in Detroit Lakes find it easy to work together and run a successful banking business. Nancy Baker, Donna Heimark, Carissa Roerick and Kelsey Gerszewski have been working together since earlier this year, and say that their all-woman staff has quite a few advantages — for them and their customers. Being in the banking business for many years, Baker and Heimark said they have worked their way up through the ranks and performed every job along the way, providing them more appreciation for newcomers like Roerick and Gerszewski. “I can relate to what she does. I’ve done her job,” Baker said. Although they both have some banking experience behind them, Gerszewski and Roerick both started this year with the Detroit Lakes American National Bank. Baker serves as a personal banker at the bank. Heimark is the senior customer service representative. Roerick is a customer service representative who helps with opening accounts and helps at the counter when needed. And Gerszewski is also a customer service representative who takes care of the helping customers at the front counter. She will eventually open accounts as well. “We’re a smaller staff, so we do a lot of cross training,” Baker said. And while American National Bank of Minnesota may appear small, Baker said they have seven branch offices,

with corporate headquarters in Brainerd, and each has its niche. Detroit Lakes’ niche is the deposit sector. There are 60 employees throughout the seven branches, and 40 of them are women. “When I started,” Baker said, “it was typically a man’s world.” Clearly that has changed. The Fergus Falls branch of the bank is all-women as well. “The communication is there,” Heimark said of having an all female staff. “We’re always asking, ‘what do you think about this, guys?’” “No one feels they can’t say anything,” Roerick agreed. The relationships they can build among themselves resonates with the customers as well. Baker said the thing that sets them apart is the exceptional customer service. “I’m not saying men can’t do that, but we really strive for that,” she said. It’s building those relationships and learning their customers’ habits and preferences that are important to these women. “It’s not that we’re personal friends (with our customers), but we care,” Heimark said. The women agree that they are very open and work well together. “We really can’t see any disadvantages,” Baker said of having an all woman staff. “I feel very comfortable working here,” Heimark said. “I have never worked anywhere I felt like such a team,” Gerszewski agreed. Heimark — who is married to Leslie and has three grown children and nine grandchildren — said she got her start in banking in 1984 based on the reality of life.


Carissa Roerick, clockwise from left, Donna Heimark, Nancy Baker and Kelsey Gerszewski make up the staff of the American National Bank of Minnesota in Detroit Lakes. Having an all woman staff, they say, has many benefits. “I was married with three children and we needed the extra funds in the family,” she said. She enjoyed working with people and got a part-time job at the bank. “I think I’ve worked in every department of the bank,” she said. In 1987, Baker moved to Callaway, where her husband, Troy, was originally from. “We moved here and I needed a job,” she said. So she applied for a position with the Callaway bank and eventually moved over to the American National Bank in Detroit Lakes, where she’s been for the last 15 years. The couple has two teenage children, Lindsay and Logan. “I like helping people. I like to help that young family get into their first

home. I like to help that young person get their first car,” she said. Roerick said she had an interest in banking during college, so when she graduated, “I needed a job and applied.” Originally from Frazee, she worked in the Fargo-Moorhead area for a few years before relocating back to the area to be closer to family. Gerszewski, who just married Steve Gerszewski in mid-October, said, “(Banking) is very flexible to get into. There’s so much you can do, something different every day.” Family comes first at American National Bank, too. Regardless of how small the staff is, they work together to cover for one another when they need time off. “If we need a day off, that’s 25 percent of our staff gone,” Baker said. But, “everybody chips in.”



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