ALGONA — In 1993, Vicki Mallory was on a search committee to hire a new executive director for the Algona Chamber of Commerce.
But after the committee conducted between five and seven interviews, the right candidate never emerged, she said.
That’s when one of the other members had an idea.
“He told me he thought he knew the perfect person to take the job — and it was me,” Mallory said. “He thought I had the common sense, the business sense, and a commitment to Algona.”
Mallory submitted her resume, interviewed for the position, and was hired in April that year.
Twenty-five years later, she is still the executive director for the Algona Chamber of Commerce.
“I truly love my job as much today as I did back then and it has been great to see how things have changed,” she said. “Some have stayed the same, but Algona has always been a great community to promote.”
Mallory’s job involves attracting people to the city and ultimately into the local businesses.
In terms of showing off the city, strong events are key, she said.
One of those events is the Autumnfest Craft Show.
“We have been doing that for 25 years and that event brings a lot of people into town to shop, but also brings a lot of quality crafters,” she said. “They have to provide photographs of what they will be selling.”
She added, “For us to attract top-quality crafters, we have to make sure the crafts are quality. We have been very successful with those crafters and the people. People patronize our other businesses and many people spend the night, so our motels see business. It has a far-reaching impact on the community.”
Another traditional event is the Algona Band Day Festival. This is its 70th year.
Mallory remembers participating herself.
“I grew up and graduated in a little town on the north end of the county, Ledyard,” she said. “And when I was in high school there I marched with the band in the Algona Band Day Festival. That has always been a special thing for me because the year we celebrated the 50th they did a special section in the newspaper and it was interesting that I had actually marched in it myself in high school and this many years later I am helping to plan the festival.”
She added, “It’s one of my favorite events of the year.”
Mallory said while Algona offers many excellent events, she is constantly looking to improve them.
“We have a lot of activities we sponsor that hopefully will continue to bring people in the community,” she said. “My job is to manage those events and keep coming up with ways to make them better and come up with ideas to create more awareness for what we do in the community to attract more members. The more our membership base grows, the more we can do for those businesses and the community.”
Mallory has also been a member of the Algona Rotary Club since 1992. She served as a district governor from 2005 to 2006.
She has been impressed with the developments in Algona in recent years.
“The expansion of several of our larger businesses, Pharmacist’s Mutual, Snap-On, the continual growth of our medical center, YMCA, our two school systems,” she said. “We have two great school systems. We recently added a performing arts center thanks to the generosity of a local couple.”
The performing arts center, called the Ed and Betty Wilcox Performing Arts Center, was an addition to the Algona High School that opened in January 2017.
The estimated $8 million facility has an advanced sound system and an 863-seat auditorium.
“The one that will make the biggest impact is having that performing arts center and offer quality performances from different plays and different opportunities,” Mallory said. “The Chamber is sponsoring a concert in the fall that we will use as a dues revenue generator.”
She added, “Algona has been very fortunate. We have a very solid and diverse business sector. Great retail, service industry, manufacturing. We have all the different business sectors covered and that has remained pretty constant over the years.”
One constant challenge is keeping people informed about the progress of Algona.
“Within the city limits, population has reduced as have many of the rural towns,” Mallory said. “One of the factors is our unique geographical location in Kossuth County. We do have the reach to bring the smaller towns into town and another factor that doesn’t show, we have a lot of subdivision housing developments not counted in our population. Those housing developments are not added into our population count. The city limit numbers are down, but we are working really hard to attract younger professionals. Families recruiting people coming back to the hometown area.”
The top two challenges are workforce and housing.
“Workforce and housing are something we are constantly working on,” she said. “We have a local economic development group that focuses on those two things.”
Volunteerism is also critical.
“We have an aging population. We have great young professionals that are spread pretty thin sometimes between jobs and families and community activities. The challenge is getting them hooked on helping. The importance of giving back.”
One thing that has surprised Mallory through the years is the number of people she has known for a long time and ended up working with.
“Finding what goes around comes around,” she said. “I am working with people I have known for years and years and would have never in a million years would have thought that our paths would have crossed in the ways they have. Whether a daughter or a grandchild of someone I grew up with or whether they are a volunteer. I just think that’s quite unique. That being from the area, that happens quite often. That’s a lot of fun to think back when I was 15 years old and one of my friend’s granddaughters is now volunteering.”
Mallory is happy that she has contributed to making Algona a better place.
“I am very proud of the fact that I feel I have made a difference for Algona,” she said. “I will never ask a volunteer to do anything for us that I’m not willing to do myself. I put myself out there right alongside them.
“For me, the accomplishment is that I have a great pride in the fact that I have made and continue to make a difference for Algona.”