A triumvirate of longtime Ralston businesspeople swept the big three awards at last Wednesday’s Ralston Area Chamber of Commerce Awards.
Lifelong Ralston resident Mark Krzemien was named 2013 Citizen of the Year, Dennis Leslie of Dudley Movers/Chieftain Van Lines was named Businessperson of the Year and SignIT, owned by Steve Roarty, was named Business of the Year.
“It was a lot of fun, being recognized with those guys,” said Krzemien, who works in the marketing department of Don and Ron’s Carstar Collision Center, the business his father and uncle started 50 years ago. “I’ve worked a lot with Dennis and Steve over the years and they’re guys that see the value of being active in the community. When you have good people like that, it’s fun, it’s easy. You can laugh and have a good time but everyone knows when the work needs to get done.”
That’s a trait all three certainly share, said Chamber President Tara Lea.
After completing her first year as president, Lea said she was fortunate to be able to lean on Krzemien, Leslie and Roarty, who each served as Chamber chairmen, to come to a better understanding of the Chamber’s working and she could also count on them to be first in line for volunteer opportunities.
“When I think of all three of them, it’s just unbelievable dedication,” she said. “They love Ralston more than anything else in the world and you can tell. They want to make sure the Chamber and the city are doing incredible things. If I have anything that I need, they’ll drop everything to help out.”
In garnering the Citizen of the Year honors, Krzemien was recognized for his leadership with the Chamber’s Board of Directors, on which he is beginning a second four-year term. Krzemien is also an integral part of the Chamber’s Independence Day Parade display and he also plays a special role in Ralston’s Holiday Magic celebration.
As Citizen of the Year, Krzemien will also hold the title as 2014 Independence Day Parade Marshal.
The accolades aside, he said he volunteers for the Chamber and the city because he wants to see Ralston continue to be a great place to live.
“I don’t do these things for awards,” Krzemien said. “I do them because I want a better place for my kids, I want a better business environment, I want to see Ralston keep getting better, all the way around. There’s a pride of ownership there. I grew up here. I’m glad my kids are growing up here. Ralston has great stuff going.”
The same goes for Businessperson of the Year Leslie, who has been working at Dudley Movers/Chieftain Van Lines since 1971.
Starting as a packer, driver and warehouseman, Leslie moved up the ranks into sales and is currently vice president of the company. He said he took the same approach to his career as he did in his Chamber service — helping out leads to greater things personally and for the community, he said.
“I really do look at this as a community award,” Leslie said. “Ralston is the kind of place that people see and say, ‘That’s somewhere you can succeed.’ I’ve always wanted to be a part of that. And to be honored alongside Mark and Steve, it’s a great honor for me.”
Leslie, who served as Chamber chairman in 2011, also said being able to talk about Ralston with his colleagues in the business world has been a great way to open up business avenues around the region.
“I push Ralston every bit I can,” he said. “We belong to the Omaha Chamber, too, and whenever I’m in a room with Omaha people, it’s fun to tell them what’s going on in Ralston.”
Boosterism is also a major part of what Roarty sees as his role with the Chamber. As a two-time Businessperson of the Year honoree, Roarty’s business SignIT picked up this year’s Business of the Year award.
“Ralston is Ralston,” said Roarty, who is also a former Ralston City Councilman. “It’s a community that sticks together, it’s a place where we’ve been privileged to do a lot of business, with the city, the school district, with the other businesses here. People like to have that small little town, that Independence City theme. You feel like you can be somebody in Ralston. In a bigger city, you can feel lost, but in Ralston, you’re special.”
Roarty runs SignIT with his brother Marty, and two sons, Matt and Scott, and a host of family friends who, Roarty said, are every bit as close as kin.
That tight-knit bond, he said, is something that makes SignIT a mirror of the community it helps to serve.
“It’s a place I enjoy coming to work every day,” he said. “It’s a true family business and we want that to extend to our customers.”
In addition to the honors for Krzemien, Leslie and Roarty, Eric Scott, a lifelong Ralston community resident was awarded the 2013 Chamber Ambassador of the Year recognition. Scott is a business development specialist at Kidwell.
The Chamber also honored its past chairman, John Peterson and bestowed upon him the Chamber’s Liberty Club Award.
Five Ralston High School students were honored with $1,000 scholarships as the Chamber’s Outstanding Scholars: Kurt Cronican, Olivia DeRusse-Charlesworth, Matthew Kachek, Sarah McGill and Colleen McGrath. Amber Scott was named the Chamber’s Marlene L. Hansen Scholar.
2013 Chamber Chairman Joe Kilzer, an assistant principal at RHS, also handed the reins of the chairmanship over to Michael Sanchez, co-owner and manager of Maria’s Mexican Restaurant, for the 2014 term.