New MSE director has Elkader roots

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Elkader native Sheila Bergan is the new director of Main Street Elkader. (Submitted photo)

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


New Main Street Elkader (MSE) Director Sheila Bergan has deep connections to the community. 


Bergan was born at Central Community Hospital and graduated from Central Community School. Her parents never left the area, and neither did several of her seven siblings. To say her “roots are very deep” seems to be an understatement. 


Those deep roots made Bergan a standout candidate to members of the hiring committee and were cited as justification for why they fought so openly to bring Bergan into the fold. 


“She is passionate about her hometown and seeing it continue to be a thriving community,” said Elkader City Administrator Jennifer Cowsert.


Added city council member Tony Hauber: “Her passion for this town is what really impressed people.”


As for Bergan, while those roots certainly played a large part in her decision to apply for the role, so did a friend who thought she would be a good fit. She had also reached the proverbial fork in the road of life. 


“I believe that this is a good time in my life to be returning to Elkader and having the opportunity to take this job was something that helped me make that decision,” she said. 


Bergan’s experience rests on her time spent as a para-educator, teacher and substitute, where she honed necessary and transferable skills such as adaptability, a sense of professionalism and being personable. While working with students, parents and administrators, as well as during time in retail sales, Bergan was constantly interacting with the public, meeting their needs and demands and attempting to provide a positive experience. 


Whatever remains to be learned, Bergan is confident the support and training she will receive at the hands of current MSE board and committee members will help fill gaps. It’s something Bergan admitted will be an “ongoing process,” but she is up for the challenge. 


“I am a people person, which is very important in this job position. You have to be able to deal with a lot of different personalities and do your best to relate to and help everyone,” Bergan said.


Her prior experience is another reason Hauber believes Bergan is a solid choice for the role. 


“Sheila’s experience as a teacher demonstrates her abilities to support a group of people, orderly, through a procedural yearly calendar and to communicate pleasantly and professionally,” he said.


Bergan offered a brief explanation of what the MSE role entails, stating that her main function will be to act as a liaison between Main Street Iowa and MSE. She will determine what would be beneficial to the city while also facilitating and implementing various programs and projects.  


“The director also coordinates activities within and among various committees and assists with implementation of work plan items. The job also entails a lot of administrative work,” Bergan added.


While Bergan did not provide specifics on programs and projects, she discussed other aspects related to MSE, including events like Sweet Corn Days, Art in the Park, the opera house and Rhythm on the River. These events “continue to draw visitors from the surrounding area and farther afield,” Bergan said. “We need to continue to promote those events and make them bigger and better.” 


Bergan also brought up the “natural beauty, historic architecture and distinctive businesses” she believes are a “logical draw for Elkader.”


Although new to the director role, Bergan noted how helpful MSE members and the city have been, stating that everyone has been “positive and helpful.” 


“For the first six months, we expect that she will be getting up to speed on her roles and meeting people,” said Cowsert. 


Added Hauber, “I expect, after a small ramp up period, she will really excel at this role and bring a lot of great perspective to the position.”


Looking toward the future, Bergan is still developing her goals and vision, as well as how to spur economic development for the community.


What is not unclear is Bergan’s conviction and support of volunteerism, and how indispensable volunteers are to organizations like MSE. 


“I believe that Elkader has always had a strong spirit of volunteerism and they carry out essential tasks that would otherwise not be possible because of financial constraints or lack of other resources in a small town,” Bergan said.


As MSE moves forward under new leadership, Bergan will rely heavily on her deep roots and knowledge of Elkader’s past to continue its march toward the future.


“Having grown up in Elkader, I am familiar with the town’s past and have seen it evolve through the years,” she said. “Despite the significant changes through the years, Elkader has maintained its beauty, uniqueness and character and it’s important to preserve that while attracting businesses and people who will enhance what is here now while growing our population and creating a positive climate to bring in jobs. Because of the love I feel for this place and its people, I want see Elkader thrive.”

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