Given the opportunity to chat about The Colonels, current Chair Josh Jelden (or Ramrod as the group refers to their Chair) was excited to share. In Jelden's own words: "The Colonels are a group of distinguished men who are local leaders, professionals, and business owners in town. We are members of the Chamber, movers and shakers in the community who are chosen for their visibility in town. We are responsible for representing our group and the Chamber throughout the community, but overall just a group of guys who love camaraderie and community service."
The Colonels have been a group since before Jelden can remember, "since at least the 1970's," so there is definitely some longevity and history in the group. Within the group there are two branches, the first being the Colonels, and then off of the Colonels are the "retired" members who are lovingly referred to as Generals. The Generals are still very much involved with the group's efforts, they just aren't required to attend all meetings or events. Currently there are 43 Colonels and 31 Generals. Colonel membership for the group is capped at 50, so the group is currently working on electing a few new members. When a gentleman is asked to be a Colonel, it is an honor, according to Jelden. "The guys who are before you are distinguished individuals and it is an honor to be asked to represent in that way."
In the past the Colonels were very traditional, over the years we have transferred leadership to younger leaders with fresher ideas. More group outings, more outreach, Jelden shared. He said between the work of the former Chair, Scott Bazata, and the Co-Chair (Nimrod) Mark McBride, the group has shown great effort in giving back to the community. The Colonels are a good group and ambassadors for the community. They always show up, and we hope to continue moving up to more and more volunteerism. Ultimately, we want to be known for our volunteering and the honor that it is to be a Colonel. We want to continue to evolve as a group.
So what do the Colonels do at their meetings? A favorite part of the meetings is when they bring in speakers that are relevant to the time period. Coach Lind and Athletic Director Bauer from UNK were recent speakers. This was an enjoyable meeting because the Colonels were able to show support for a local team, but also a Chamber member. There is a Doing Business Award that is presented at every meeting which is to recognize hard work and interest in the community. A recent example was Eaton who received the award for their celebration of 50 years in the community. A few of Eaton's employees came to share and were asked questions about their time with the company. It ensured that the Chamber and its ambassadors have interest in their members and grew an already important relationship. This goes right along with the time they set aside to build relationships with each other and discuss ways that the group can promote the Chamber and businesses within the group.
The Colonels have goals for the future and only want to continue their growth, both through community outreach and their relationship with Chamber members and events. This past year they used their excess funds plus a few donations to purchase an entire new body armor suit from Shield616 for the Kearney Police Department. They always help with the preparation for the Cruise Night parade, the Gateway Farm Expo, and the Ft. Kearny Outdoor Expo.
The Colonels are one tight knit group. Between monthly meetings and their annual traditions, they have become a small family. The Chamber is proud to have the Colonels as an ambassador group and we will continue to work together closely to add value to each membership.