Nancy Elsing’s Dec. 28 retirement party saw a large turnout, which evidences how many people she’s impacted during her 22 years working for Columbia County.
Or at least that’s what those who have worked with her said. Her retirement party was held at the Portage Enterprise Center – a center she helped fund and build.
Rog Severson, president of Lodi area Opportunity and Development, Inc., and one of Elsing’s many friends, said she can be credited with many accomplishments. He, like others at Elsing’s celebration, spoke to many of her achievements as well.
“You just knew that Nancy was always thinking of what could be generated in all of her communities,” Severson said.
He said Elsing is, and was, always energized, motivational, optimistic, organized and always put others first.
Luke Walz, president of the Poynette Chamber of Commerce, spoke similarly of Elsing. He said she wanted to make sure Poynette was a “successful community.”
“He ability to network is strong,” he said.
She’ll always be around
Elsing officially retired Dec. 31 from the Columbia County Economic Development Corporation as executive director, though she said she would still be “around” – to help her potential successor and to be a resource. She’ll never truly leave CCEDC, she said.
Elsing’s desk faced a large window where she could peer out and see most of Portage. She said she always liked having an office with a view. And even though she left that office at the end of the work day, she said never stopped conceptualizing ways to improve Columbia County.
She likes numbers, statistics and hard facts. Those things matter when solving problems objectively, Elsing said. She attributed that love to a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, though she originally attended to study landscape architecture. The transition into journalism was easy, she said, as her original degree included some journalism-related courses.
The Poynette native wanted to be well versed in all things that interested her. She also already had a business background – the Elsing family owns Elsing Oil Company, Inc. and the Poynette and Arlington BP gas stations.
While studying for her master’s degree, Elsing was the assistant director for CCEDC from 1992 to 1995. Then, she was hired as the executive director in 1995. She said as the assistant director she worked part-time, often in the mornings, but stayed in the afternoon to use her computer for homework.
From paper to reality
Elsing has been involved in many projects in Columbia County, especially those concerning tourism. Most of her ideas are born from bursts of inspiration she has in the middle of the night.
“(CCEDC is) very fortunate to receive funds from the county to do tourism work…” she said. “Within the last six years, the Department of Tourism has estimated that we’ve increased tourism in the area by 30 percent.”
She also helped implement several financial resources for Columbia County businesses, fostered the growth of many local organizations and clubs (L.O.D.I. included), kept everyone up to date about goings-on in the state and county, set up award ceremonies and assisted with putting up signs for a county bike trail, to name a few.
And for Poynette and Lodi specifically, she’s met with business owners, in person, to help them address potential financial issues and solve them. Consequently, she’s helped both communities expand especially through tourism efforts, according to both Severson and Walz.
“Nancy saw the opportunity to get a busload of tourists from out east to various communities in Columbia County, including Lodi,” Severson said.
Severson also said L.O.D.I. chose her for the organization’s Directors’ Award in 2016.
“It is an award that is presented to someone who exemplifies outstanding involvement and volunteerism,” he said.
‘It starts with a few people. Then, it grows.’
Elsing said her master’s thesis was about communication factors that influence a county board supervisor’s decision to vote for or against a county sales tax.
Her research showed her the importance of facts in making decisions that affect a large population – and inspired her to help others. She wouldn’t do it alone.
From there, and through some public service work she did for Poynette, she took her aspirations further, eventually helping start CCEDC and building it to be the corporation it is today.
“It starts with a few people,” Elsing said. “Then, it grows.”