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Dave Mitchell hugs Gwenda Koch as she presents him with the Community Service Award at the Mitchell Area Development Corp. and Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet on Friday night at the Highland Conference Center in Mitchell. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)

Chamber honors Dave Mitchell, Eichman, Montgomery's, ice committee

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After Mitchell rose from his table to a round of applause at the annual Chamber of Commerce Recognition Banquet to accept this year’s Community Service Award, he opened his short speech with a couple of jokes.

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“I would say I’m speechless, but no one would believe me,” he said. “And Governor Daugaard, I was told tonight to behave myself sitting at the same table as you.”

Mitchell, a professor at Dakota Wesleyan University, was given the award that is a tribute to an individual for significant contributions and service to the Mitchell community. It has been presented by the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce since 1956 at its annual banquet.

The banquet, held at the Highland Conference Center in Mitchell, is hosted by the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce, Mitchell Area Development Corp., Mitchell Convention and Visitors Bureau and Dakota Heartland Development Association.

This year, Daugaard was in attendance and spoke prior to the awards presentation. He discussed the state’s workforce initiatives, South Dakota WINS, a development program that brings together government, education and business efforts to train and attract more workers in high-demand jobs.

He also touted the state’s recent achievements, including being ranked as having the top business climate in the nation and climbing above pre-recession employment levels.

“If someone says there’s something wrong with South Dakota, I say baloney,” Daugaard said. “South Dakota works.”

There were four awards handed out at the banquet, which had about 400 people in attendance. The Family Business of the Year went to Montgomery’s Furniture; the Chamber Volunteer of the year went to Dolores Eichman; and the Tourism Excellence Award went to the Mitchell Skating and Hockey’s Association’s Twice the Ice Committee. The Harold Hagen Award was not given out this year. Sonya Moller, of the chamber, said when it was first established, it was determined that it would be a periodic rather than an annual award.

Mitchell was given the final award of the night. He was recognized for his work in political, community and church activities.

His work with Dakota Wesleyan University, Meals on Wheels and donations to the community were acknowledged. He also was commended for helping find the Mitchell Area Community Theatre a new home after the State Theatre burned down in 2004.

“Widely respected for his opinion, he has served on every planning committee for both Mitchell and DWU,” Chamber President Gwenda Koch said. “He has influenced many business owners and workers who sat in his classes at DWU.”

Mitchell joined DWU’s staff in 1972 and is one of the longest-serving professors at the school. He is professor of business administration and economics. He is also involved with the United Methodist Church and fundraising for several groups.

Family Business of the Year

Montgomery’s Furniture goes back as far as 125 years, when G.H. Montgomery moved from Vermont to the developing state of South Dakota.

It was in 1888 that Montgomery’s opened and Friday night it earned the Family Business of the Year Award.

Today’s Montgomery’s Furniture is owned and operated by Jim Loomer and his son, Todd Loomer, with stores in Alexandria and Mitchell. Both accepted the award at the banquet.

“We have families of employees and families of customers. Thank you to all of you and everything you’ve done for us,” Todd Loomer said.

Chamber Volunteer of the Year

Dolores Eichman has welcomed new residents to Mitchell since the 1960s.

Eichman was honored with the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce Volunteer of the Year Award, which recognizes an individual who has demonstrated enthusiasm, dedication and leadership to advance the mission of the chamber through committee work. It is also for someone who makes chamber-sponsored events possible, while setting an example for future chamber volunteers.

“This is just a complete surprise,” she said. “I’ve really enjoyed welcoming people to Mitchell.”

Tourism Excellence Award

Leading the efforts to secure a second sheet of ice for the Mitchell Activities Center was the Mitchell Skating and Hockey’s Association’s Twice the Ice Committee.

The third annual award was presented to the 11-person committee that raised more than $600,000 for the $2.8 million project. The committee members include Doug Beck, Carey Grosdidier, Sheryl Loes, Mike Mohr, Dave Muth, Brian Nash, Steve Rice, Lynn Smith, Jeff Smith, Dave Tronnes and Brad Zimmerman.

Beck accepted the award, saying, “It’s finally wrapping up, and it’s just great.”

The 31,000-square-foot sheet of ice opened Dec. 1 and has provided open skating times on a weekly basis. It has also brought in additional hockey tournaments and practice room for the Mitchell Marlin hockey teams.

“It has already made a significant improvement to the available recreational and sports facilities in Mitchell and will significantly increase tourism in the Mitchell area,” said Jill Larson, chairwoman of the Convention and Visitors Bureau Advisory Board.

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