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Pillars of the Community at Bellevue University

Sarpy County has had vast changes over the years. 路 Strong leadership guided these changes. 路 This special edition recognizes a few of the leaders and legends who have left their mark on the county.

Sept. 25, 2013

A supplement of Suburban Newspapers Inc.


THE 2013 HONOREES

Recognized for their impact across the community Last year’s inaugural class of Legends and Leaders set the bar high for recognizing those who work to make Sarpy County grow and prosper. This year’s honorees meet that bar. Suburban Newspapers Inc., in partnership with Bellevue University, recognizes the contributions of the honorees. Members of this year’s group are immortalized with plaques on a wall inside the Durham Center Building on the university campus.

Legends BEARDMORE CHEVROLET — Owned by Carey and Brian Hamilton, the dealership was opened by Maurice Beardmore, Carey’s father, in 1971 on Fort Crook Road in Bellevue. HARLAN FALK — Senior vice president for business development at Great Western Bank. Falk has been with the bank for 55 years. He has served on several community boards, including the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, College World Series and the Ralston Public Schools Foundation.

Leaders DAN HOINS — Current City Administrator for the City of Papillion, Dan and the city staff have helped guide Papillion through unprecedented growth among the metro area’s suburban cities. JOLENE ROBERTS — As president and CEO of Hillcrest Health Services since 1998, she oversees more than 700 employees and multiple locations throughout Sarpy County. TIM AND JAN VALA — What began in 1983 on 20 acres of land in western Sarpy County has grown into one of the most visited tourist attractions in the metro area. Vala’s Pumpkin Patch in Gretna is now a 212-acre entertainment destination that has more than 600 employess during its fall season.

Inside the Durham Center on the campus of Bellevue University, directly across from the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce is the Sarpy County Business Hall of Fame. Plaques from the 2012 innaugural class are seen hanging on the wall along with the Hall of Fame banner. tom k no x / suburban newspaper inc .


The 2012 inaugural class is featured here on the Hall of Fame wall at Bellevue University. The 2013 honorees will take their place and will be on display for the following year. tom k no x suburban newspapers inc .

2012 inductees

Inaugural class set the bar high Last year’s inaugural class of the Sarpy County Business Hall of Fame was a unique group. Their work in the community helped to poise Sarpy County as the premiere area for business growth in the metro area. These Legends and Leaders have made positive impacts across the community.

Last year’s Legends

Last year’s Leaders

» R. Joe Dennis was a developer of numerous residential neighborhoods in Bellevue and one of the founders of Bellevue College as well as First National Bank of Bellevue. » Andy Anderson and Tom Doyle were instrumental in the establishment of the La Vista/I-80 interchange, which has led to explosive growth in that part of the county. » Al Wenstrand was the former executive director of Sarpy County Economic Development Corp. who helped land Caterpillar Claas and was a proponent 20 years ago of building the Highway 34 bridge. » Bob Dreessen of Thompson, Dreessen and Dorner was the engineer for the City of Papillion for 35 years. Papillion’s population more than tripled during that time period — from 5,606 in 1980 to 18,894 in 2010.

» Bellevue University, founded by civic leaders from Bellevue and Omaha, has been a pioneer in adult education and online education, and continues to invest in the community. » C.L. Werner, founder of Werner Enterprises, moved from one pickup truck to a national trucking presence. Werner also stepped forward by investing in naming rights when the Triple A baseball stadium was built in Sarpy County. » Gail DeBoer, CEO of SAC Federal Credit Union, had multiple opportunities to build her company’s new headquarters in different locations but chose to reinvest in Sarpy County. The company has been a valuable corporate partner to many organizations, including Offutt Air Force Base. » Mike Hogan is a local developer/businessman who has left his mark in Papillion, La Vista and Bellevue with several retail spaces. He owns Bank of Nebraska across eastern Sarpy County.

Congratulations to the 2013 Sarpy County Business Hall of Fame Inductees Beardmore Chevrolet, Carey and Brian Hamilton – Sarpy Chamber Member since 1997 Great Western Bank, Harlan Falk – Sarpy Chamber Member since 2003 City of Papillion, Dan Hoins – Sarpy Chamber Member since 1983 Hillcrest Health Services, Jolene Roberts – Sarpy Chamber Member since 2007 Vala’s Pumpkin Patch,Tim and Jan Vala – Sarpy Chamber Member since 1998

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BEARDMORE CHEVROLET Family business founded Bellevue’s auto row BY SCOTT STEWART | SUBURBAN NEWSPAPERS INC.

Before Bellevue’s auto row was founded in the early 1970s, the area where Beardmore Chevrolet now sits was a feed lot.

S cott S tewart / S U B U R B A N N E W S P A P E R S I N C .

Carey Hamilton is the owner of Beardmore Chevrolet in Bellevue. Her father, Moe Beardmore, founded the dealership in 1971.

What’s grown up along Fort Crook Road, and what’s kept the corridor alive through the change brought about by the Kennedy Freeway, can trace its roots back to one man: Maurice Beardmore, who everyone knew simply as Moe. Beardmore founded the Chevrolet dealership commemorating his surname in the summer of 1971 after moving from Papillion. Before that, he had dealerships in Beatrice and Oxford. His daughter, Carey Hamilton, bought the family store in 1995, and her husband Brian owns the adjacent Beardmore Subaru dealership. Together they operate and manage both dealerships. The Beardmore family have been General Motors dealers since 1919, Hamilton said, when her great-grandfather sold vehicles. Hamilton said her father kept moving to larger markets, selling dealerships along the way, until he arrived in Bellevue, where he established roots. The family-owned business has provided a cornerstone for the other dealerships along Fort Crook Road, including the new Woodhouse Nissan and Performance Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram dealerships

along Chandler Road that, along with Todd Archer Hyundai, shifted the auto row into an “L” providing continuity from the Kennedy Freeway to Fort Crook Road. The changing landscape has made it easier for customers from west Omaha, Plattsmouth and elsewhere to reach Bellevue. In the meantime, the Chevrolet dealership has grown to about three times its original footprint. “The Kennedy was absolutely huge,” Hamilton said. “My dad always felt that having auto dealerships together was good both for his business and the car buyer.” Because Beardmore, like many in the auto sales industry, believed customers were better served by clusters of dealerships, he assisted fellow dealers as they set up shop in Bellevue, including Dennis Schworer, the owner of Honda Cars of Bellevue. Schworer said Beardmore helped him with questions, including what to expect for real estate taxes. He said he was a leader who helped push Schworer’s own community involvement. “Moe was very instrumental once I got See Beardmore: Page 6

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“My dad always felt that having auto dealerships together was good both for his business and the car buyer.” Carey Hamilton

Beardmore: Dealership has grown Continued from Page 4

to town,” he said. “Everybody welcomes competition that draws customers into the buying area.” Beardmore has expanded on its commitment to Bellevue recently with a $2.5 million renovation project that Hamilton said “touched every inch” with the goal of improvement customer experience and satisfaction.

T om Kno x / S uburban N ewspapers I nc .

Brian and Carey Hamilton, owners of Beardmore auto dealerships, continue the family-owned business that has been in the family since 1919.

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“It’s modern,” she said. “We get so many compliments on it.” Part of what makes Bellevue special is its link with Offutt Air Force Base, a proud tradition honored by Beardmore Chevy. Moe was a World War II veteran, and his brother Carly Beardmore received the Navy Cross for his service in the See Beardmore: Page 7

The family-owned business has provided a cornerstone for the other dealerships along Fort Crook Road, including the new Woodhouse Nissan and Performance Chrystler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram dealerships along Chandler Road that, along with Todd Archer Hyundai, shifted the auto row into an “L” providing continuity from the Kennedy Freeway to Fort Crook Road. The changing landscape has made it easier for customers from west Omaha, Plattsmouth and elsewhere to reach Bellevue.

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Maurice “Moe� Beardmore was honored by Time Magazine in 1987 as its quality dealer award representative. This now hangs in the Beardmore Chevrolet dealership in Bellevue. Moe was a World War II veteran, and that legacy lives on in Beardmore’s commitment to the members of the armed services in projects such as the refurbishing of airmen’s quarters at Offutt Air Force Base.

Beardmore: Legacy lives on Continued from Page 6 Pacific theater. That legacy lives on through Beardmore’s commitment to the members of the armed services. The dealership helped refurbish airmen’s quarters at Offutt and contributed to the fallen warrior memorial on the parade grounds, according to Chad Anderson. Beardmore also sponsors a trophy for Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps students, along with golf tournaments and other efforts. The dealership staff is actively engaged in the community beyond the military pres-

ence. Anderson, the dealership’s general sales manager, is chairman of the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce board of directors. Carey Hamilton is on the Bellevue University board, a position also held by her father, and Brian Hamilton is on the executive committee of the National Automobile Dealers Association and the Nebraska State Chamber of Commerce and Industry board. The Beardmore dealerships employ about 75 people in Bellevue and were recognized last year with the chamber’s Silver Arrow Award for exceptional contribution to the city’s economic growth.

S cott S tewart / suburban newspapers inc .

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Starting at yes Papillion’s Hoins has negotiated the city’s meteoric economic rise. BY ADAM KLINKER | SUBURBAN NEWSPAPERS INC.

A dam Klin k er / suburban newspapers inc .

Papillion City Administrator Dan Hoins with a photograph he keeps in his office of the intersection of Highway 370 and 84th Street as it looked in 1976. Hoins, who has been city administrator since 2000, has overseen Papillion’s dramatic increase in economic development.

Ever close at hand in Dan Hoins’ office in Papillion City Hall is a 14-by-12-inch piece of posterboard to which is affixed a photograph of the intersection of Highway 370 and 84th Street. The picture was taken in 1976 with a view to the southeast. All but hidden behind a small rise in the earth is Midlands Hospital. Other than that, there’s dirt and two sleepy but paved roads lined with electricaly poles. “Do you want to know how simple economic development is?” Hoins asks as he looks at the photograph, pointing at those poles, those

roads. “Infrastructure. That’s how simple economic development is. From the ground down: streets, water, sewer. If it’s not there, you won’t do it.” For 13 years from his desk as Papillion’s city administrator — an era during which Papillion’s valuation has more than doubled over the entirety of the previous 125 years of existence — Hoins said he has been the beneficiary of big-shouldered, foresighted giants who not only dreamed it could be this way, but took the monumental steps to ensure that future.

Congratulations Dan Hoins Thank you for everything you have done to help Papillion grow and thrive for more than a decade. Papillion’s healthy and continued commercial development has been remarkable.

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- Mayor David Black and the Papillion City Council – Steve Engberg, Troy Florance, Jason Gaines, Jim Glover, Gene Jaworski, Lu Ann Kluch, Tom Mumgaard and Bob Stubbe


Continued from Page 9

K E N T S I E V E R S / W O R L D - H E R A L D news service

Papillion’s $1.3 million First Street Plaza park debuted this summer, just in time for Papillion Days. The project, at First and Washington Streets, transformed an old parking lot into a small park/community space with public bathrooms, a fountain, small splash pad and a stage.

There may not have been a Shadow Lake Towne Center, a Werner Park, a Settlers Creek, a Fidelity Investments data center around Papillion in 1976, he said. But there were plenty of decisionmakers who thought there one day could be, and it’s to them that Hoins, ever deflecting of praise, gives the glory. “They just gave me the keys to the Mercedes,” he said. “And I’m just trying not to wreck it.” But building on the foundation that has gone before, Hoins has seized on every opportunity to grow Papillion. “Papillion wouldn’t be what it is without Dan’s influence,” Mayor David Black said. “I know he talks about standing on the shoulders of giants, but think about the foundation he’s leaving for the future. Everything we see around us, Dan has had an immense hand in making possible.” What has flowed from that is evidenced in the economic development, yes, but also in the Top 10 rankings Papillion has received in the Best Places to Live lists in CNN/Money Magazine. “I point to those as the external value of what we’re doing,” Black said. “And that’s all been on

Dan’s watch. It is a strong statement.” Hoins began his career in Papillion in 1994 when he became a lieutenant with the city’s police department. He was elevated to chief of the force two years later. Always considering himself a cop at heart, Hoins thought that’s where he’d be for the foreseeable future. Then, in 1999, Papillion embarked on a national search for its next city administrator. At the same time, the city was wracked by a period of political tumult within city hall. The firm running the search selected a handful of candidates from across the country. But one by one, they dropped out of the running. “All highly qualified people, great for the job,” Hoins said. “But they took a look around at a difficult political environment, and they didn’t want to risk their careers.” Someone from the search firm approached Hoins: maybe he was interested in the job? The chief was dubious. Besides, he was an officer of the law. “What did I know about being a city administrator?” Hoins said. “But what those other candidates didn’t know, that I did, was the level of human


“He looks for the win-win. He doesn’t care how disparate the parties at the table might be, he strives to find some way that everyone can walk away with something. He’s a master negotiator like that.” David Black, Papillion mayor

K E N T S I E V E R S / W O R L D - H E R A L D news service

Continued from Page 10 being we already had here, the kind of people you need to operate an organization at the highest level.” Still, Hoins took some convincing. Not long after, he got it: from the highest authority. Hoins was sitting in church as his pastor delivered a sermon entitled “Get in the Boat,” based on a passage in the Gospel of Matthew in which Peter, fearful of drowning in a lake during a storm, reaches out to Christ, who hauls the disciple into the boat, stills the winds and chastises him with the familiar refrain: “Ye of little faith!” “Well, I got in the boat,” Hoins said. Papillion is glad he did. In 2000, on his very first day as Papillion’s city administrator, Hoins met with the developers of what would eventually become Shadow Lake Towne Center. Over time, the city would agree to $18 million in infrastructure improvements to the site at 72nd Street and Highway 370, which ultimately opened in 2007 and has flourished ever since. “He showed he was very effective in that position, right from the beginning,” said Toby Churchill, executive director of the Sarpy County Economic Development Corporation. “Dan knows what infrastructure means to any development. “At Shadow Lake, there were some pretty major investments up front, but he saw that in the long run, it was going to be beneficial for the city. That’s been the case for the other major developments in Papillion. The fact that he’s been able to work with different mayors and city councils to make developments or projects like Shadow Lake, like Fidelity’s data center a reality shows what he’s capable of.” That Hoins has been on the job for 13 years, under the tenure of three mayors and several city councils, all of whom have trusted him enough to continue getting the job done, also speaks volumes.

“It’s the one position that pulls everything together,” Black said. “He’s got a mayor, eight council members and then there’s an organization, all with different ideas. The cohesion comes from the city administrator. “He literally has nine bosses, and then there’s the city. He’s done that for over a decade and with these results. He’s a person who sits down at the negotiation table and he doesn’t look for the winlose situation. He looks for the win-win. He doesn’t care how disparate the parties at the table might be, he strives to find some way that everyone can walk away with something. He’s a master negotiator like that.” When Hoins took the reins in 2000, the city’s valuation was $662 million. It now stands at $1.3 billion. On his watch, the city has approved 900 commercial building permits and another 3,657 single family residential permits. In addition to the major developments at Shadow Lake and Settlers Creek, the creation of the Fidelity Investments data center and pending work that will extend west on Highway 370 and around Werner Park — home of the Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers baseball team — Papillion has added a high school, created a new library and packed on about 3,000 more in population. And not everything is shiny and new. The city’s historic downtown business district is also revitalizing and drawing in new patrons and business owners. But in the end, for Hoins it all comes back, quite literally, to those grassroots efforts of those who went before. It drives the very tenets of his negotiating tactics. “My philosophy has always been that instead of starting at no, let’s start at yes,” Hoins said. “And figure out what we can do from there. Let’s not limit ourselves by thinking about all the reasons something can’t be done and instead have the conversation about what we can do to make something happen.”

Werner Park, left, home to the Omaha Storm Chasers, and Shadow Lake Towne Center, above left, are just two projects that have come to reality in Papillion under Dan Hoins watch as city administrator. Other projects have included Settlers Creek, the Fidelity Investments data center, the new headquarters of SAC Federal Credit Union and other projects along Highway 370 and around Werner Park. M A R K D A V I S / W O R L D - H E R A L D news service

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HARLAN FALK A lot to give to the community He’s never lived in Sarpy County, but his name is well known BY EUGENE CURTIN | SURBURBAN NEWSPAPERS INC.

E ugene C urtin / suburban newspapers inc .

Harlan Falk, a senior vice president at Great Western Bank, has been a leading figure in supporting Offutt Air Force Base, its military personnel and its annual air show.

Harlan Falk has never lived in Bellevue or Sarpy County. Yet his name in the area, and around Offutt Air Force Base, is as well known as any of those who built housing subdivisions, served on city councils, built businesses or established universities. Those who know him best express wonder at his ubiquitous nature, especially when it comes to supporting troops stationed at Offutt and backing signature events such as the Offutt Air Force Base Open House and Air Show, and the annual appreciation picnic. “I have,” he said, with some understatement, “spent a lot of time down there.” John Hansen, a longtime Bellevue real

estate agent and another prominent booster of all things Offutt, said Falk has been a key player in the military support effort for many years. “Every kind of event you can imagine, Harlan’s always been there,” he said. “He has been just a tremendous supporter in all areas of the military.” It began for Falk in 1958 when he joined Douglas County Bank right out of high school as a part-time employee while pursuing his studies at the then-Omaha University. Through various mergers and purchases that bank is today Great Western Bank, and Falk has spent 55 years in its service. Today See Falk: Page 14

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Spectators look around the nose of a C-5 Galaxy during the Offutt Air Show at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue. Harlan Falk has been a big supporter of Offutt and the air show over the years. He is also a member of the Offutt Advisory Council board of directors and of the Nebraska Military Support Coalition.

Falk: Lifelong career as banker Continued from Page 13

world - herald news service

he is senior vice president of business development. Banking is a profession Falk said he wanted to enter even as a child growing up in Hawarden, Iowa, a small town about 40 miles north of Sioux City. “I always wanted to be a CPA or a banker,” he said. “You change a lot of people’s lives being in banking, being of service to them and just overall trying to meet their needs and improve their lives.” His connection to Offutt began about 20 years ago when Great Western Bank bought the Bank of Bellevue. With that purchase came a branch on Offutt Air Force Base, and Falk was assigned to promote See Falk: Page 15

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Harlan Falk stands in front of the Great Western Bank on West Dodge Road in Omaha.

S U B U R B A N N E W S PA P E R S I N C .

“He created a connection between the Omaha business element and the base, and also Bellevue.”

Congratulations

Rick Sanders

Falk: Has worked to expand services on base Continued from Page 14

Great Western’s services on base. Carl Comte, a retired Air Force colonel and Korean War veteran, was president of the Offutt branch at the time and came to know Falk well. “He’s hard-working, he’s industrious, he’s smart and he’s a good team worker,” Comte said. “And very service-minded. I think it’s well deserved

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that he’s being inducted into the Sarpy County Hall of Fame. I have nothing to say but good words.” Falk’s industriousness is beyond doubt. He is a member of the Offutt Advisory Council’s board of directors and of the Nebraska Military Support Coalition. He is also president and co-founder of Wings Over the Heart-

land, which is the civilian support organization for Offutt’s air show. And this says nothing of his multiple involvements in Omaha and Ralston. Rick Sanders, co-owner of the Richmont Village retirement community, is also a co-founder of Wings Over the Heartland. See Falk: Page 16

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Carey Hamilton Brian Hamilton

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Harlan Falk has been a big supporter of Offutt and its presonnel. He is instrumental in the appreciation picnic held on the base every summer.

T on y M iceli / S U B U R B A N N E W S P A P E R S I N C .

Falk: ‘An amazing guy’ Continued from Page 15

M att M iller / W orld - H erald N E W S S E R V I C E

He said Falk’s work supporting Offutt, and including Bellevue and Sarpy County, has been critical. “He’s an amazing guy,� Sanders said. “He created a connection between the Omaha business element and the base, and also Bellevue. I’ve never seen a guy work so hard. He and Diane, his wife, have been to every event imaginable in Bellevue, and in Omaha, every charity event, every chamber of commerce event, every university event. “They built a lot of solid relationships.�

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For his part, Falk said it has been an honor to be associated with the base and, through Wings Over the Heartland, with the air show. “We raise a lot of money for the air show to pay for things that the military can’t pay for,� he said. “Things like hats for the participants and workers, which is a very big thing since they like to collect them. Food for the performers, that sort of thing. “Most of all it’s a real privilege to work with the people who protect us and serve us. It has been very educational.�

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JOLENE ROBERTS Passion to serve inspired by family Jolene Roberts took over Hillcrest Care Center, which later became Hillcrest Health Services, in 1989 at age 28. “I think that Bellevue and certainly Sarpy County are fortunate to have such a businesswoman in their community.”

Her vision and focus has made Hillcrest Health Services what it is today BY KELSEY STEWART | SUBURBAN NEWSPAPERS INC. Jolene Roberts has had a passion for serving the aging population since she was 7 years old. Roberts was inspired in part by her grandmother. “She was probably the most resilient person I knew, and she was always respectful of older people,” Roberts said. Roberts also spent time as a candy striper at an Iowa nursing home. She found the residents to be entertaining and serving them was rewarding. “God put me on earth to take care of old people,” Roberts said. Years later, as president and CEO of Hillcrest Health Services, Roberts still has that passion and embodies the mission of her company.

Don Woods, left, shows off Pumpkin, his Pomeranian, to residents during the Dog Days of Summer Dog Show at Hillcrest Health Services in Papillion. The show is just one of many activities that residents of Hillcrest enjoy.

Megan Lucas, former president and CEO of the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce

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“Our mission is enhancing the lives of aging adults. She takes that to the next level. She’s passionate about making a difference in people’s lives,” said Anna Fisher, director of quality and education at Hillcrest. Roberts has background in gerontology and social work. She worked in Iowa as a social worker before taking a job as a nursing home administrator. She took over Hillcrest Care Center in 1989. The original owner approached her about buying the facility. At 28 years old, Roberts was shocked by the offer, but she knew instantly she would accept. It took time for Roberts to learn to run a business, but she had fun learning. See Roberts: Page 20

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Congratulations, Jolene! Jolene, you are a legendary leader among Sarpy County business professionals. Over the past 25 years, you have helped build an outstanding team of 700+ professionals focused on one single mission: Jolene Mathison-Roberts CEO, Hillcrest Health Services

        

Today, Hillcrest Health Services offers more services to aging adults than any other provider in our region and we’re earning national recognition for many innovations and accomplishments. Thank you for your leadership and congratulations on your well-deserved induction into the Sarpy County Business Hall of Fame!

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Hillcrest Health Services’ offerings include a senior living community, hospice care, physical therapy, home care, short-term rehabilitation, care for residents in need of memory support and more.

Roberts: Guiding growth Continued from Page 18

Kirb y Kaufman / suburban newspapers inc .

Several community members gathered in June for a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the future Grand Lodge at Hillcrest Country Estate in Papillion. From left, Mark McMillan, John Roberts, Myrna Young, Jolene Roberts, Roy Bennett, Papillion Mayor David Black and Jim Janicki.

Under Roberts’ guidance, Hillcrest Health Services has grown from one location to a network of services for aging adults. Hillcrest’s offerings include a senior living community, hospice care, physical therapy, home care, short-term rehabilitation, care for residents in need of memory support and more. Roberts’ dedication to learning how to run a business paid off. “She makes no apologies for being a very successful businesswoman,” said Megan Lucas, former president and CEO of the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce. “I think that Bellevue and certainly Sarpy County are

fortunate to have such a businesswoman in their community.” Hillcrest’s growth is a credit to Roberts’ vision, planning and focus, Lucas said. Under Roberts’ leadership, Hillcrest Health Services has received numerous awards, including the Sarpy County Chamber Small Business Award, the Bellevue Silver Arrow Award, the Sarpy County Business of the Year, the Omaha Chamber Golden Spike Award and the Sarpy County Economic Development Corporation Business of the Year Award. “I don’t think Jolene would be as successful as she is if she didn’t have the compassion for serving a population of our country that needs See Roberts: Page 21

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Roberts: Meeting a need Continued from Page 20

The club room at Grand Lodge at Hillcrest Country Estates will provide future residents with a place to relax.

her services and needs the products that she provides. She provides something that is centered on the people whose needs she meets,� Lucas said. Roberts isn’t currently serving on any boards, but in the past she has served on several, including the Alzheimer’s Association Midlands Chapter, Child Saving Institute, Visiting Nurses Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Nebraska Health Care Association, Immanuel Health Systems Retirement Communities and the American Health Care Association. See Roberts: Page 22

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A stream runs into a large pond between the villas of Hillcrest Estates in Papillion.

Roberts: Encourages staff Continued from Page 21

“From the outside looking in, I perceive her as a strong leader — aggressive and assertive, passionate and consistent.” Anna Fisher, directory of quality and education at Hillcrest

Roberts still finds caring for residents to be rewarding, but now she has to leave that care up to her staff. “I know that my actions and decisions enhance their lives,” Roberts said. Roberts leads 750 employees in caring for more than 1,000 residents. She works on strategic planning and visioning for the company. Roberts is good at what she does and is good at selecting her employees, Lucas said. “From the outside looking in, I perceive her as a strong leader — aggressive and assertive, passionate and consistent,” Lucas said. “She always had an amazing team. Those team members stick around because they have an equally amazing boss.” For Fisher, working with Roberts for more than a decade has been energizing. “I feel that everything I do is representative of working with Jolene and the company,” Fisher said. “She’s a true visionary. She encourages people to develop themselves and empower themselves to make a difference.” While Roberts is focused on growing Hillcrest Health Services and serving clients, she enjoys life, Lucas said. “The whole package of Jolene Roberts is spectacular,” Lucas said. “She has a huge capacity of compassion, love and passion for what she’s doing. Tending to our senior citizens is more and more critical every day.”

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Jolene Roberts leads 750 employees in caring for more than 1,000 residents. She currently is focused on strategic planning and visioning for the company, leaving the focus of residential care up to her staff.

Congratulations to the 2013 Class of Sarpy County Business Hall of Fame

Congratulations to the 2013 Inductees

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What began in 1983 on 20 acres of land in western Sarpy County has grown into one of the most visited tourist attractions in the metro area. It is now a 212-acre destination that has more than 600 employees during its fall season.

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TIM AND JAN VALA Pick-your-own strawberries became pumpkin patch A last-minute decision set the course for Vala’s. BY ELIZABETH BROWN | SUBURBAN NEWSPAPERS INC.

Kirsten Vala Fong, left, and Kyla Vala Shaver pose with their parents, Jan and Tim Vala, in front of the “How Tall this Fall?” sign at Vala’s Pumpkin Patch. The sign is a popular spot for families, who document the growth of their children each year they return to Vala’s.

A spur-of-the-moment decision turned a pick-your-own-strawberries farm into Vala’s Pumpkin Patch. Tim Vala wanted his own business in the early 1980s, and he knew he loved to garden, so he decided to capitalize on a new trend. Pick-your-own-strawberries businesses were taking off around the country, so after doing some research at the library, he decided to give it a try. It takes a year, however, for strawberries to be picked after being planted. “We started growing vegetables, too, because we needed to get some cash flow going,” Vala said. “That first year, we planted some vegetables and sold them off the back of my pickup truck in town, by the junior high school in Papillion. My first pumpkin crop was about a pickup load of pumpkins.” The second year, Vala planted more pumpkins than he realized. “I planted too many of them, and I didn’t think I was going to be able to sell all of them off the back of my pickup truck,” he said. “I thought maybe people would come out and pick pumpkins like they picked strawberries. It was really a

last-minute decision.” That last-minute decision led Tim and Jan Vala to transition from growing strawberries to going all in on pumpkins — as well as all the other things that go with a pumpkin patch. From that first year in 1983 with 20 acres to work, Vala’s Pumpkin Patch has grown to more than 200 acres and attracts more than 100,000 visitors each year. In short, Vala’s has become one of the metro area’s top tourist attractions each fall. “They’re well-known throughout the country,” said Linda Revis, Sarpy County Tourism director. “I’ve had people call me from Georgia who wanted to open a pumpkin patch, and they wanted to fly in to visit Vala’s first because they’d heard so much about it. “Tim and Jan Vala do an absolutely great job.” Tim and Jan, both graduates of Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, have carved out a niche attraction that brings carloads and busloads to Gretna from late September through Halloween. See Vala’s: Page 26

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE LEADERS & LEGENDS OF SARPY COUNTY 2013!

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Volunteers wave their hands during the pig races, where students are educated on three breeds of swine at Vala’s Pumpkin Patch.

Vala’s: Fall tradition for many Continued from Page 25

A L Y S S A S C H U K A R / world - herald news service

“The neat thing about this business is that we get rewarded by everyone being so happy to see what we’re doing and asking us what new things we’re doing each year.” Tim Vala

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The Valas vividly recall the early years of the business. “The first year or so, it was really just a ‘let’s try to survive’ mode,” Tim Vala said. From that humble beginning, a visit to Vala’s has become a must-do tradition for families and schools every autumn. “There’s been a lot of tradition and a lot of loyalty built up over the 29 years,” Tim said. “People come out and bring their kids and take their picture by the ‘How Tall this Fall?’ sign that has the year on it. We’re getting the second and third generation now. That’s what’s really neat.” Tim Vala, who holds a degree in education, said a key to success for Vala’s has been a willingness to invest and reinvest in the business and, in turn, in Sarpy County. “Basically, it’s a steady line where we’ve invested our profits back into the

business to make a nicer place for all of our customers to come out and enjoy,” he said. “The neat thing about this business is that we get rewarded by everyone being so happy to see what we’re doing and asking us what new things we’re doing each year.” As Vala’s Pumpkin Patch has expanded, Tim and Jan have stepped back a little from the day-to-day operations. “We have a really great staff, and, as we grow, we have to delegate a lot more,” Jan said. The business now employees around 600 people each year. “One of the biggest benefits to us being in Sarpy County is the really, really great people we can get to work at Vala’s,” said Jan Vala, who formerly worked as a school psychologist for Omaha Public Schools. “When we have visitors out here from other parts of the country, they notice how nice our staff is and how See Vala’s: Page 27

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Gourd-picking and hayrack rides are popular at Vala’s Pumpkin Patch. Families and schools make the trip year after year, carrying on traditions that span two and three generations. Most of Vala’s employees return every year, too.

Vala’s: Many of its employees come back year to year Continued from Page 26 well they’re treated as guests, and they say that that’s the one thing they can’t duplicate at their places — how nice our staff is.” The employees themselves tend to come back as well. Jan said 80 to 90 percent of employees return from year to year and help train the new staff members. Though Vala’s is open to the public for a mere 40-some days a year, the business requires year-round attention to creating and constructing new features, along with land maintenance and planting. In addition, Tim Vala has become a sought-after speaker on ag-related issues after he and Jan were named the 2003 Outstanding Farm Marketers of the Year by the North American Farmers’ Direct Marketing Association, and after he spoke at the 2008 Governor’s Ag Conference in Kearney. In their spare time, the Valas are involved in St. Paul Methodist Church in Papillion, the Sarpy County Chamber of Commerce and the Gretna Chamber of Commerce. Jan Vala also serves on the Sarpy County Visitors Committee board of directors.

W orld - H erald news service

Congrats to all those inducted into the 2013 Sarpy County Business Hall of Fame

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I am for the child who has attended eight schools in four years. Because she’s in foster care. Because her birth mother, debilitated by mental illness, neglected her. That is the child I am for. And because I am, she will be half as likely to languish in foster care, and that much more likely to find a safe, permanent home. I am a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer. I am you. Lift up a child’s voice. A child’s life. Get involved at www.sarpy.com/casa or www.NebraskaCASA.org Thank you to these wonderful businesses for their support of the Little CASA Su CASA Fundraiser

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2013 Sarpy County Business Hall of Fame

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