Posted 10 months ago
By Kevin Horn
A lifetime of dedication to Alliance will continue for Dixie Nelson, but doing so as Executive Director of the Alliance Chamber of Commerce will end on March 31. Nelson will turn “that magical age” on March 30, which will allow her to begin drawing railroad retirement.
Nelson began serving as the chamber director on January 6, 2006. She had worked with the BNSF Railway for 23 years as a clerk and then decided to return to college and earn a degree in nursing. Then the chamber director’s position became available.
“I applied because I had seen somewhat of a decline in Alliance,” she said. “While the railroad’s new diesel shop was a huge shot in the arm, the grandstand at the race track had been torn down, the livestock sale barn was demolished, and the Montgomery Ward building was also torn down. That bothered me. I wanted to get involved in the community in a way that could make a difference.”
Nelson, who obtained a bachelor’s degree in art from Chadron State College in 1981, believes she was hired because it was all part of God’s plan.
“I was a single mom with a young daughter who was receiving railroad retirement funds from her deceased father,” she explained. “Those funds ended when she turned 16. Financially, it would have been pretty tough to obtain my nursing degree. I’m so thankful I pursued the chamber opportunity.”
Nelson says she believes the community’s confidence in the chamber has grown over the past eight years.
“The chamber was certainly victimized by the embezzlement issue that took place about 10 years ago,” she said. “However, we have been able to increase our budget by over $25,000 since I took the job. The support the business community and Alliance as a whole as shown the chamber has been incredible. Of course, a lot of the success was due to Lue Nerland.” Nerland retired this past November 30 after serving as the chamber’s finance director for nine years.
“We’ve had some great things happen in Alliance,” she exclaimed. “The building of the State Veteran’s Cemetery, the new Knight Museum and Sandhills Center, the new Performing Arts Center, the rebuilding of the Central Park Fountain, the ongoing hospital expansion, Panhandle Co-op’s new facility, the new Pepsi Distribution Center, an increase in chamber membership and an overall improvement in community attitude has brought me extreme satisfaction.” Whatever I asked for – 99 percent of the time – folks responded positively. The best move we made was combining office space with Box Butte Development and the Alliance Visitor’s Bureau. We are now a one-stop shop.”
While the chamber’s main function is to promote Alliance and its chamber members, she also took pride in promoting Alliance’s neighbor to the northwest, Hemingford.
“Hemingford contributes to the Alliance economy and we need to show them our appreciation,” she said. “It was an honor to spotlight Hemingford’s 125th birthday during our 2011 Heritage Days celebration. Our office has also served as a ticket outlet for the Box Butte County Fair, and each summer our front window display is used to promote the fair.”
Nelson, the daughter of the late LaVerne and AdaMae Wood, was born at St. Joseph Hospital. She graduated from Alliance High School in 1972, as did her four brothers; Jerry, Ken, Lyle, and Arnold. Her community service has included serving on the former District 25 school board for six years.
“The chamber job has been fun,” she added. “For eight years I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in everything from A to Z in trying to enhance Alliance. Probably the most satisfying part of the job was hearing out a person who was critical of our community, or one of its projects – such as Streetscape – and giving them the other side of the story. If I could get them to leave my office with a more positive view, that was a personal reward.”
Nelson has given her board of directors three months to find a successor. Applications, along with a resume’ and cover letter, are being accepted until February 10 at the Alliance Career Center (former Job Service) at 302 Box Butte Avenue.
Nelson says she is looking forward to resuming her artwork, spending more time with her grandchildren, volunteering, and finding a part time job.
It she concerned about the awaiting changes?
“God has always provided,” she stated with blessed assurance.