By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
In the 18 months that Sauk Centre native Andrea Wander Kerfeld has been at the helm of the Sauk Centre Chamber of Commerce, membership has increased from 112 to 153.
“The Chamber had stalled and was on ‘auto chamber,’” Kerfeld said. “It was just a matter of letting people know that it was a new day, and encouraging them to be part of what the Chamber was doing now.”
Kerfeld is the Peach’s first “Woman of the Month” because of the work she’s done revitalizing the local business community.
Kerfeld has lived nearly her entire life in Sauk Centre. After graduating from Sauk Centre High School in 2000, she joined the Army National Guard and trained in military intelligence at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., that summer. When she returned, she took one semester of classes at St. Cloud State University in mass communication and broadcast journalism.
After meeting her husband, Kelly, and deciding to get married, she settled back in Sauk Centre. She and Kelly have three children, Greta, 10, Ellen, 9 and Ava, 7.
Kerfeld had sold advertising for the Sauk Centre Herald during high school and was asked to return to work there.
“I really do credit that experience for where I am today,” she said. “I got out and met people — a baptism by fire.”
The Sauk Centre Fire Department welcomed Kerfeld into its ranks four years ago as the first woman firefighter in the city. She would eventually like to get her emergency medical technician (EMT) certification as well, once her kids are older.
“I love it,” she said. “We have a very good fire department. It’s good to be needed, to go on the calls and see what you can do.”
Since Kerfeld started with the Chamber in September 2011, her fresh ideas and high energy have had a noticeable impact on the Sauk Centre business community.
“I feel I’ve brought a needed boost of energy and ideas into the picture,” she said. “I’m a one-man band up here; people can get volunteered out.”
The Chamber of Commerce is not affiliated with the city of Sauk Centre, and receives no funding from the city.
“It is a non-profit funded by memberships and fundraisers,” Kerfeld said. “We promote the city and work with the city, but we don’t work for the city.”
The Chamber has updated technology “by leaps and bounds,” Kerfeld said. “I’m very adamant about keeping the Web site up to date. Facebook used the right way is a powerful tool.”
The Chamber Board of Directors has added three new positions in the last 18 months, for a total of 15.
“Seven people applied for the last board opening,” said Kerfeld. “It’s good that people want to be involved. They see a value in it now.”
Kerfeld credits her board with allowing her the freedom to do her job.
“I have a board that lets me run with my ideas, not putting too many restrictions on what I can and can’t do,” said Kerfeld. “They are very supportive and easy to work with.”
One of her goals is to hire another Chamber employee to do the “nuts and bolts” work for events.
“If someone could work on the details and get paperwork lined up, I’d like to spend more time working with the Economic Development Association or the city,” she said. “I like the behind-the-scenes work, bringing more business to Sauk Centre and helping create more jobs.”
Kerfeld would like to see Chamber membership continue to grow. She has calculated the number of businesses within a two- to three-mile radius of Sauk Centre is between 300 – 400, including day care providers and contractors.
In addition to the many and varied businesses in and around Sauk Centre, the city also supports more than 30 non-profit organizations.
“They’re all important to somebody,” Kerfeld said. “I want to try to help them out as much as I can. It’s fun — that’s why I do it.”
She would also like to start hosting movies in the park.
“It’s been on the drawing board for two years, even before I started,” said Kerfeld. “The family movies would be free and run on Sunday evenings in the summer.”
Kerfeld is working with Main Street Theater to make the event happen.
“It is something that will bring people into the community, bring concessions in, too,” she said.
The Chamber Board has also discussed hosting a triathlon and sponsoring a Little Miss Sauk Centre pageant.
“I love my job,” Kerfeld said with a smile. “I like being involved in things and meeting people.”
“She’s amazing,” said Chris Lawinger, co-owner of Schaefer’s Market. “She is a great promoter of everything and everybody, and I hear that from business people I talk to. We are fortunate to have someone with her good qualities working for us.”