Recognizing Community Excellence in the Willmar Lakes Area


Please help us recognize outstanding community leaders with four special awards: Emerging Young Leader, MILO, Exemplary Leadership, and the Legacy Award. A description of each award is listed below. Nominations may be submitted at any time for future recognition.



Emerging Young Leader Award

The Emerging Young Leader Award (ELA) is awarded to an individual under 40 years of age who demonstrates outstanding leadership that benefits the community and its citizens. Areas of outstanding service include working with youth, adults, and families to improve the Willmar Lakes Area quality of life. Leadership qualities include creativity, volunteerism, responsibility, problem solving, respectfulness, cooperation, and organizational skills. Leadership qualities are not limited to Chamber activities and may include work for other organizations. 


Past Recipients of the Emerging Young Leader Award:

Robert Mathiasen, Heritage Bank, N.A.

Lourdez Schwab, All Star Realty & Willmar Area Multicultural Market

Jonathan Kreps, JD Kreps Financial Group

Chad & Angela Koosman, Celebrate the Light of the World

Melissa Sorenson, Jennie-O Turkey Store, Inc.

Aaron Madsen, Nova-Tech Engineering

Jared Voge, Bolton & Menk, Inc.

Christina Boike, Christianson, PLLP

Nate Erickson, The Salvation Army

Sarah Swedburg, Kandiyohi County & City of Willmar EDC

Hallie Johnson, CentraCare - Rice Memorial Hospital

Kelsey Hedlof, Hormel


"MILO" Award

The "MILO" Award is named after long-time Chamber volunteer, Milo Halberg who passed away in 2001. Milo served a three-year term on the Board of Directors and was a longstanding member of the Membership Committee until his retirement from "volunteerism" in 1998. During his years of service to the Chamber, Milo personally signed over 100 Chamber members, and many times was requested by certain members to have him personally pick-up their membership check as part of the overall retention program.

The award was established in Milo's name to recognize local business leaders who exemplify Milo's leadership in the areas of volunteerism, community leadership,  involvement, and dedication to the Chamber of Commerce. The "MILO" Award will be presented to a Chamber member who is 40 years or older who has provided leadership and commitment not only to the Chamber, but also to other community organizations and programs as well.


Past Recipients of the “MILO” Award:

Bob Dols, Northern States Supply

David Reed, Welders Supply

Lachlan Smith, Affiliated Community Medical Centers

Ken Behm, Home State Bank

Smitty Luschen, Heritage Bank, N.A.

Greg Hilding, Bremer Bank, N.A.

Gary Geiger, Heritage Bank, N.A.

Milan Schmiesing, Conway, Deuth & Schmiesing, PLLP

Russ Bennett, Bennett Office Technologies

Jim Sieben, Nova-Tech Engineering / MinnWest Technology Campus

Joanna Schrupp, MinnWest Technology Campus

Dave Baker, Baker Hospitalities

Kathy Schwantes, University of Minnesota Extension

James Miller, United Way of West Central Minnesota

Jon Schmidt, DataSuccess

Steve Gardner, Willmar Electric Service

Aaron Backman, Kandiyohi County & City of Willmar EDC

Doug Kuehnast, United Prairie Bank


Exemplary Leadership Award 

The Exemplary Leadership Award (ELA) is designed to honor someone who has achieved recognition in their field and has made significant contributions to the respective profession and business or organization of which the individual is a part of. The award is open to a man, woman, or business that has demonstrated a successful and exemplary history of leadership resulting in noteworthy accomplishments for the business or organization that the leader serves. In addition, the recipient will have been successful in serving his/her profession in a manner that inspires others in the profession to recognize the person as a leader in the field. Ideally, community members also will readily identify the recipient as being successful as a leader.


Past Recipients of the Exemplary Leadership Award:

Kathy Leedom, Willmar Public Schools

Julie Asmus, Willmar Police Department

Lynn Johnson, Ridgewater College

June Boie, Rice Memorial Hospital

Dr. Dale Lauer, MN Poultry Testing Laboratory

Sara Carlson, Willmar Area Community Foundation

Heather Thompson, Conway, Deuth & Schmiesing, PLLP

Willmar Rotary, Accepted by President Brandon Zumwalt

Betsy Bonnema, REDstar and WORKUP

Jim Sieben, Nova-Tech Engineering / MinnWest Technology Campus

Denny Baker, Former City of Spicer Mayor

Jennifer Lindquist, LEAD & BEN Coordinator


Legacy Award 

This award is designed to honor someone who has made significant contributions to the Willmar Lakes Area community. In honor of long-time Chamber President Ken Warner who retired in 2023, the award is presented to a person that has persevered in a community leadership role and has made the Willmar Lakes Area a better place to work, live, and raise a family.


Past Recipients of the Legacy Award:

Ken Warner, Willmar Lakes Area Chamber 

Dr. Jeff Holm, Willmar Public Schools


Chairman's Circle Chamber Members