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Leading by example

‘Sometimes if you want to get it done, you have to be the one to do it’

-Messenger file photo by Kriss Nelson
Kathy Carlson stands near the Southeast Valley High School in Gowrie. She is a school board member and serves and volunteers on various other boards and committees that serve the town of Gowrie.

Editor’s note: This feature first ran in a special publication called Hometown Pride, published June 26, 2021, featuring people and organizations from Fort Dodge and the surrounding area who are making a difference in their communities.


GOWRIE — Kathy Carlson has many reasons why she volunteers her time serving on committees and boards that serve the town of Gowrie. One reason is she is hoping to lead by example.

She is hoping that not only others follow suit and step up, but it is something she wants to instill in her children.

“They need to see it,” she said. “I have taken them with me when I donated blood just to show them here is what you can do to help. Growing up, my dad donated blood, so that is why I do it and I hope it is a good example for my children.”

Carlson lives just outside of Gowrie with her husband, Brett Carlson, and their three daughters, Riley, Jacey and Taylor. Brett Carlson is a Gowrie-area farmer who also owns and operates his own custom application business and he is the town’s newest fire chief.

Carlson said choosing to be engaged is something she has done for most of her life.

“I’ve always just been involved,” she said. “I think back to growing up and on the farm and in 4-H and FFA and serving in those leadership positions knowing that sometimes if you want to get it done, you have to be the one to do it.”

Carlson grew up near Rockwell City, but that has not kept her from embracing all that she can to help her new hometown thrive.

“It’s not my hometown; it is my husband’s hometown,” she said. “We have lived here our entire marriage. We raise our children here. We live, work and play here. Just knowing my girls are growing up here, I want them to have the good memories of their hometown like I do mine.”

Carlson first became involved in her community when she joined the Xi Eta Sigma Sorority.

In that capacity, Carlson has served as president and treasurer for the group that works to give back to the community with an emphasis on helping the children of Gowrie. This has been made possible through such efforts as their Cow Pie Bingo held each Fourth of July in Gowrie and their annual ham ball dinner.

Carlson was elected in 2015 to the Southeast Valley School Board and is currently serving her second term. Starting soon after the grade-sharing agreement between Southeast Webster and Prairie Valley was made, Carlson said she is pleased with how the boards from both schools are working toward the same goals.

“We have been able to bring the two boards together. We share a superintendent, and the elementaries are doing the same curriculum so when the kids come together in fifth grade they are all on track,” she said.

Carlson has been a loan officer at Security Savings Bank in Gowrie since November 2018. It was then she started attending the monthly meetings of the Gowrie Development Commission (GDC). She decided to become a member of the board when an opening became available.

“I have really enjoyed being on the board for the GDC, seeing a lot of how things go behind the scenes,” she said. “The Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance is great with giving us updates of what is happening, sharing grant opportunities and other things we can take advantage of.”

One of Carlson’s prouder accomplishments through her volunteering efforts was helping to keep a grocery store in Gowrie.

“Back in January of 2020 there was a community meeting. I went along with all of those 100-plus people as a concerned citizen because we live here, work here and shop here,” she said.

At the end of the meeting she was approached to consider being a part of the board and she obliged.

The town rallied together and within 10 days had enough funds raised. The board continued on with forming an LLC and also put some sweat equity into the project, helping to clean and get the store ready to open.

“The town rallied. We did it. The town continues to rally. We recently won the Federal Homeland Bank grant and that was based on the finalists and the number of votes they received. When it comes down to it, the town is there and they will do whatever,” she said.

Carlson is proud of the citizens of Gowrie for coming together for not only helping to save the store, but other facets of fundraising with renovations done to the city’s swimming pool, saving the golf course and funds raised for a new fire station.

“All of that fundraising came from the people that live here and communities around here,” she said.

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