ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
A guest book sits on Carol Wiebe’s desk in the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce office as she prepares to close the doors on a job she’s had since 1981.
One of many guest books Wiebe has owned over her career, this one dates back to 1995 and contains names and addresses of visitors from places as close as Herington and as far away as Buffalo, N.Y.
But what names in the book mean the most to Wiebe, executive director of the Hillsboro Management Board?
“Well, my children’s names are in here, and they’re very important people in my life,” Wiebe said.
Future plans are indefinite at this time, but Wiebe said she’s looking forward to enjoying Thanksgiving and Christmas with husband Harold and their children.
“We have three sons and 11 grandchildren, and I want to look forward to spending time over the holidays with them,” she said.
Wiebe gave her two-week notice on Oct. 21, and her last official day in the office was Nov. 4.
Rhonda Toal, administrative assistant, also resigned in October.
When Darrel Driggers, president of the Hillsboro Management Board, recently announced the two resignations, he said the HMB structure and function were being reviewed in light of the city’s decision to reduce funding to HDC next year.
“When the city did the budget, they did make significant cuts to the HDC and continued their cuts on the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau,” Wiebe said.
“I don’t know what the plan is, but there’s definitely a plan to do things differently, and I want what is best for Hillsboro-to move ahead with ideas and new plans.”
When asked if the cuts were the reason she resigned, Wiebe said, “If there’s no funding, you can’t have a salary.”
And did funding cuts affect her decision to resign?
“Yes, they did and then they didn’t. They did because they made me stop and think about this is the time to do it.
“And possibly, I should have done it earlier, but I love my job. I’ve loved selling Hillsboro and working with people. I’ve just enjoyed every day.”
A Kansas native, Wiebe grew up in Russell and made friendships that shaped her life as a political advocate for Hillsboro.
“I had the connection with Senator Dole and have had long ties with him and Elizabeth, and I enjoyed that,” Wiebe said.
“I believe you owe it to yourself to recognize and stay abreast of what your lawmakers are doing at the local, county and state levels so you have an idea of what’s happening. And sometimes, you might be able to make changes.”
Hillsboro is Harold’s hometown, and the two moved back in 1963 when their sons were all under 5 years old. Harold later served as mayor of Hillsboro.
“This has been a great community for our boys to grow up in,” Wiebe said. “They still love Hillsboro, all their teachers, the church and the things they’ve experienced here.”
During the early years, Harold worked at First National Bank, and Carol settled in to stay at home and raise her family, she said.
“I did a lot of volunteer work, the PRIDE committee and things like the Miss Kansas Scholarship Pageant,” Wiebe said. “And I was involved in politics.”
Wiebe was appointed as the director of economic development for the Hillsboro Development Corporation in 1981 and served in that position until 1993.
“And then the board formed the HMB, which was this umbrella organization,” Wiebe said. “And I’ve been with them since that time as executive director of the HMB.”
“My business cards still say director of economic development, but I wear a lot of hats.”
Wiebe said she was reluctant to talk about the many hats she’s worn over the years.
“I have been fortunate because of being in this position and being active across the state,” she said. “I’ve had tremendous opportunities for leadership roles in a number of things and have enjoyed appointments by various governors.”
A sampling of her resume of organizations she has been a part of over the years reads as follows:
Small Business Administration Advisory Council for three terms.
Kansas Industrial Developers Association (Kansas Economic Development Alliance) charter member, past president and board member.
Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Industry, board member for three three-year terms, past District No. 8 vice president, member of KCCI Executive Board and current board member.
White House Conference on Small Businesses.
Kansas 125th Birthday Celebration Board member-appointed by former Gov. John Carlin.
Kansas Cavalry member for 14 years.
Kansas Business Hall of Fame chair in 1999 and current board member.
Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp.-appointed as charter member by former Gov. Mike Hayden in 1987, and chair and vice chair for nine-year tenure.
Governor’s Tax Equity Task Force-appointed by former Gov. Bill Graves in 1995.
Marion County Economic Development Council-helped found Leadership Marion County.
Eisenhower Commission-appointed by Graves in 1998.
“The Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp., that was a real education,” Wiebe said.
“I feel my education grew through being on different things like that.”
Locally, Wiebe has served on the Hillsboro Development Corp. Board, on the U.S. Bicentennial Committee, as secretary for the Hillsboro Centennial Committee, as a member of the Chamber of Commerce and on the Hillsboro Arts & Crafts Association.
Her most satisfying accomplishments were on the local level, Wiebe said.
“It’s a great deal of fun to celebrate successes, and successes in Hillsboro have been accomplished with people,” she said.
“Harold and I always say, ‘Our No. 1 asset is our people.’ It’s not anything that Carol Wiebe single-handedly did. It’s because of the cooperation and willingness of people to work together.”
One of the people she has worked with is Jeanie Reiswig, Chamber president.
“I feel it’s a loss for the Chamber and the city of Hillsboro (that Wiebe is leaving),” Reiswig said. “She has a lot of knowledge that will go with her and lot of life experiences you can’t put in writing.
“She’s been a real advocate for Hillsboro, and she will continue to be.”
When asked to reflect on the highlights of her career, Wiebe said the 1984 Centennial was a celebration that stood out in her mind.
“It was a very successful event that allowed people to come to Hillsboro and have an opportunity to see what a great place it is and maybe decide to come back,” Wiebe said.
She listed the Hillsboro Arts & Crafts Fair as the “single most important event that happens during the year in Hillsboro-from the standpoint of being able to showcase the community,” she said.
“It gives us an opportunity for a large amount of publicity to happen that day, and it benefits some of our merchants that day and maybe later on.”
Reflecting on her work with HDC, she mentioned “The Diamonds in Your Own Backyard,” the corporation’s theme.
“That means that we’re not out recruiting General Motors, because we don’t have the funds to do that, and you’d have to have the employment base,” Wiebe said.
“However, if General Motors wants to come next week, I’ll put somebody on it,” she said with a chuckle.
When asked how she earned the title “Hillsboro’s No. 1 Cheerleader,” Wiebe said that happened during a talk she gave at Tabor College one time.
She told the audience, “I like to say that I can be Hillsboro’s No. 1 Cheerleader, but I wear long skirts and not short ones.”
Looking to the future for Hillsboro, Wiebe said she would like to see a strong retail-business climate maintained, growth in the Hillsboro Heights and Industrial Park areas, and a strong hospital and medical community.
And what will she do when she doesn’t have to walk into the Chamber office to go to work?
“I’d like to rearrange my closet,” she said with a twinkle in her eye. “I do have some things I’m looking at.
“But right now, I’m focused on getting this wrapped up and getting everything in good shape for the people coming behind me.”