CEDAR RAPIDS, IA – The 5th Annual Iowa Rural Summit last week included a first-ever recognition of “rural heroes” – and Carla and Chuck Offenburger of Cooper, Peg Raney of Jefferson, and Jefferson native Bill Morain of Lamoni were among the 13 individuals honored on Thursday evening at Kirkwood Community College.
The Rural Summit brings together leaders from small towns across Iowa each year, and this year’s event included a “rural recognition” ceremony that paid tribute to a group of individuals who have made a difference in their rural community or region.
“Carla and Chuck were a remarkable team that had a huge impact on Cooper, Greene County and all of rural Iowa,” said Mark Reinig, board chairman of the Iowa Rural Development Council which hosts the annual Rural Summit. “While cancer may have taken Carla last month, her legacy and Chuck’s ongoing passion for rural communities demonstrate the impact that passion combined with great storytelling abilities can have.”
He said that Raney, who is retired from a career of teaching and has led the local Chamber of Commerce, the local Main Street program as well as the community effort to bring Wild Rose Casino & Resort to Greene County, “has had a huge impact on Jefferson, from the carillon to the casino license to Jefferson Matters.”
And Reinig said Morain, a retired plastic surgeon, “was selected for his remarkable post-medicine volunteerism in Lamoni and Decatur County. Bill’s impact on the Lamoni interstate exit, business development and recreational trail building, while working with countywide development groups, demonstrates how small towns can thrive through great leadership and innovative projects.”
With a crowd of more than 200 individuals from 60 different small towns, the Iowa Rural Summit addressed issues ranging from arts and culture to childcare to entrepreneurship. The first one was held in Jefferson five years ago. The 2022 Summit will be held April 12-13 in Ames.
Other honorees included Duane Asbe, Clarion; Barb Baker, Grinnell; Beth Bilyeu, Forest City; Evan Blakley, Denison; Kevin Cabbage, Stanton; Jim Erb, Charles City; Lora Friest, Decorah; David Heiar, Maquoketa; Lyle Hevern, Estherville, and Beth Waddell, Corning.