Wednesday, June 20, 2018
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John Seward new CDO director

Chamber board approves contract Tuesday

John Seward, the new director of the Community Development Office, has five reasons for taking the job.

The Fairmont native, who now lives in Aurora, SD, will take over the office on Oct. 1. Long-time CDO director Anne Anderson is resigning from the position.

Seward’s reasons for wanting the position include:

He and his wife, Lisa Zuhlke, will be closer to family in Nebraska near Fairmont

He’ll have the ability to work in all aspects of community development.

Seward can work to attract industry to the area with a committed group of volunteers from the Gothenburg Improvement Company and have the opportunity to work in large-scale agricultural business recruitment.

Zuhlke has proximity to a school she’d like to attend.

They’ll be close to lakes, wildlife and hunting and in a small town where their business can grow.

The Sewards own and operate Aurora Lighting and Sound that provide sound and lighting for festivals, weddings and corporate events in South and North Dakota and the Twin Cities area.

The couple plans to bring part of the business to the Gothenburg area and retain locations in Brookings, SD, where the home office is located and Minneapolis, MN.

As CDO director, Seward shared what he’d like to do which includes developing an ad-hoc committee to perform an assessment and develop a five-year strategic plan for the GIC and the Gothenburg Chamber of Commerce.

“I also enjoy working with higher education institutions and would work hard to further develop those strong connections,” he said, noting that his plan would include strategic internships and assisting in making Gothenburg the center for research and eventually product development.

In addition, Seward wants to create a marketing plan that would integrate both the GIC and Chamber into social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Flickr.

“We really need to get Gothenburg a greater presence on the internet,” he explained. “When people are looking for something, especially goods, services, places to put a business, golf course or whatever, we need to be at the top of the list.”

Seward said he wants to help local businesses do that as well so the community as a whole has a presence on the web.

This would include the development of a Gothenburg Delivers app, he said.

The overall goal of the office, the 40-year-old said, would be to strengthen the community’s branding/identity, showcase story ideas for the media, attract former residents and graduates back to the area, link job seekers to jobs, promote local businesses and assets and attract new businesses.

“Last but not least, I’d like to spice up community events and especially make sure that we create things for the younger parts of the community to do and be part of,” he said.

Gothenburg’s most unique attribute, Seward said, is the commitment of those involved in the direction of community development.

“They really have their heart and soul into it and have been highly effective in garnering new industry to this small community,” he said, noting that this sets Gothenburg apart from other communities in which he’s been involved. “Beyond that, the community is well kept and the golf course is also a really nice asset.

Seward said he’s created and executed events for about 15 years.

“I think it is one of those things that once you do it, you end up really liking it…you just can’t quit.”

What he likes most is watching people enjoy the fruits of his and others’ labor, adding that events can be changed a little each year to keep them fresh.

Once Seward moves to Gothenburg, Zuhlke will stay behind for a couple of months to finish up the interior of a rental house.

She now manages the lawn and garden center at Lowe’s and plans to find work locally when she arrives and will enroll at the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 2015 in biological sciences.

The couple has cats, dogs, a bird, goat and will have turkeys ready to harvest in November.

They are looking for a farmstead to rent or buy.

During his leisure time, Seward likes to hunt deer and ducks, fish, bike, run and garden.

In Aurora, he plays drums in a metal band and teaches gardening classes.

A little-known fact about Seward is that he writes short stories and poetry.

“There really is nothing like escaping onto a blank sheet of paper,” he said. “Guess that’s why I like gardening too. Writing is like tending your brain...things grow there and sometimes those ripe fruit need to be picked.”

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