Laurie Gerner, the Office Manager and Race Director (of the WaunaFest Run) with the Waunakee Chamber of Commerce, has spent most of her career serving others and connecting people to resources they need. She was a social worker for 15 years prior to taking her new role at the Chamber this past fall.
While a social worker, she worked in various organizations under the state of Wisconsin’s Family Care program (formerly known as the Community Integration Program.) Her caseload consisted of adults with cognitive, physical and mental health disabilities.
Being a social worker, although fulfilling, can also be challenging. Not every problem can be resolved, of course, and it is a stressful job, but she really liked being able to work directly with and help people. And being a good listener was also essential; sometimes people just really need to know that someone cares and that they are being heard, she said. She also liked networking and connecting people to needed resources.
The skills she honed as a social worker easily transfer to her new role with the Chamber. She loves when people walk in and she can help them learn more about the community, as well as support the many local businesses. And she’s looking forward to organizing the WaunaFest Run and assisting with several other events sponsored by the Chamber throughout the year.
Gerner grew up in both West Allis and New Berlin, Wisconsin, and graduated from Nathan Hale High School in West Allis in 1999. After that, she attended UW-Green Bay because of its strong social work program, she said.
She met her future husband, Nate Gerner, while at the university. He is an electrical engineer, and has his own business, Logic Embedded, where he contracts with companies that need electrical engineering and coding services. They married in 2005 and have two children, Rhiannon (6th grade) and Gavin (3rd grade). Rhiannon is the name of a popular Fleetwood Mac song, and Nate has loved that name ever since hearing it.
“So when we had a girl he had already picked it out,” she said of the name.
Gerner and her family moved to Waunakee from the town of Burke (near Sun Prairie) in the fall of 2018. During this time of transition, Gerner began to think about making a career change as well. She discovered the job opening at the Chamber through a creative video that her now co-workers, Ellen Schaaf and Diane Anderson, created. Gerner said it was an unedited, one-shot candid video, and she could see their personalities shine through. When she interviewed with them, she knew immediately it would be a good fit.
“Our personalities just clicked really well,” she said.
Gerner and her family love the outdoors – camping, biking, sledding, and hiking nearby state parks. Volunteering is also dear to her heart. She does so at Heartland Church in Sun Prairie, most recently as the Welcome Coordinator for the Women’s Ministry, and she and her daughter help out at a food pantry. In addition, she volunteers at Compassion International, an organization which helps people sponsor a child in a developing country. And as a family, they sponsor a child through another organization, Food for the Hungry.
She also enjoys reading, spending time with her three sisters and parents, and going out on date nights with her husband, she said. The two of them have enjoyed going to dinner at local restaurants.
She had some familiarity with Waunakee prior to moving here, as she was a Zumba instructor at the Village Center for many years. And she looks forward to strengthening her relationship with community members and local businesses. With that, she would welcome anyone to stop by the Chamber to introduce themselves.
Loving her new community and job, she said, “I feel like Waunakee just has a really positive vibe and everybody supports each other and it’s really great.”