MOORHEAD - Audubon residents Andrew and Debbie Osten received special recognition at the Emerging Leadership Program Recognition Banquet on March 30 in Crookston.

The Ostens were chosen to represent Becker County in the Red River Valley Emerging Leadership Program. Local alumni nominated them to take part in the 2019 program because of their involvement in their community. They were honored in Crookston along with individuals from 13 other counties in northwestern and west central Minnesota for completing the program and for their commitment to leadership in their community.

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Andrew runs a grain and livestock farm. He raises wheat, corn, soybeans and alfalfa. The Ostens also have 40 beef cattle. Debbie is a mental health practitioner/school-based CTSS (Community Therapeutic Support Services) provider for Stellher Human Services at Detroit Lakes High School.

During the program, Andrew and Debbie gathered with other rural leaders from the 13 participating counties over four sessions, to gain insight on personal leadership styles, communication, rural issues, life balance, and facilitating effective meetings. Participants also spent time at the State Capitol, visiting with state legislators about issues affecting their communities.

The Emerging Leadership Program celebrated its 35th year on March 30 by honoring Bruce and Aase Hamnes with the Friend of the Emerging Leadership Program award. Bruce was the Marshall County King Agassiz in 1976 and was the impetus for the evolution from King Agassiz to the Emerging Leadership Program. Bruce told the audience about how an idea, when nurtured, can grow into a program with 35 years of history and 1,147 alumni. Bruce and Aase were thanked for their continued support of the program.

Other guests that evening were Extension regional directors Lisa Loegering, Crookston, and Ben Anderson, Moorhead; Kent Olson, Extension Center for Community Vitality Associate Dean; Mary Holz-Clause, Chancellor of the University of Minnesota Crookston; and Northwest Minnesota Foundation Development Officer Dawn Ganje, who each offered their comments about leadership and congratulated program participants.

The banquet program featured leadership stories by class participants, Eric Rice, Morris; Kristen Haase, Thief River Falls; and Justin Phillips, Rothsay. There was also the announcement of new Agassiz Ambassadors for 2020, Justin and Karen Phillips, Rothsay, who were selected for this honor from among other current participants in the program based on nominations from program participants and interviews with program alumni. Justin and Karen will put their leadership skills to work in public relations, recognition, and community leadership, and will work with Extension staff to develop and deliver the educational program in 2020.

The recognition banquet was the finale of the leadership program for the Class of 2019, after taking part in four training sessions since November 2018. Program seminars focused on several of the University of Minnesota Extension's educational program components to strengthen civic leadership in the region.

The Emerging Leadership Program, a program of the University of Minnesota Extension, was created in 1985 to build skills in individuals while creating and sustaining a network of community leaders in the northwest and west central regions of Minnesota to focus on rural issues. The banquet carried on the tradition of recognizing rural leaders started by the Red River Valley Winter Shows in 1961.

A recent graduate of the Emerging Leadership Program said the following: "This has been the most beneficial training that I have ever attended. It has impacted all parts of my life, including how I have thought about some issues and new tools/techniques for more productive ways to deal with difficult situations. I find myself thinking and using these techniques every single day. And the connection to other participants has been so much fun. I have enjoyed getting to know them and learning about other communities. I will miss that."

The Emerging Leadership Program is led by Extension Educators Brian Fredrickson, Lisa Hinz and Jody Horntvedt, in partnership with over 1,100 alumni throughout the region. Soon those alumni will be coming together to select new participants for the program. To nominate someone in your county or to apply for the program, contact Jan Jackola at the Moorhead Regional Extension Office at 218-236-2001. For more information about the program contact Jody, hornt001//