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Beatrice named community of the year by Nebraska Diplomats

The city of Beatrice and an area company were recognized for their achievements by the Nebraska Diplomats on Thursday, Nov. 2.

The group held its Southeast Regional Economic Development Celebration in Seward on Thursday, where Beatrice was named its community of the year for being a leader in community growth and business partnerships.

Beatrice was selected by the Nebraska Diplomats because the city leads by example, with key projects from businesses including Landmark Snacks, Rare Earth Salts, Duonix Biodiesel, Hybrid Turkeys and Worldlawn Power Equipment, to name a few.

“Beatrice has made deliberate investments in the community, its people and its infrastructure,” Mayor Stan Wirth said in a press release. “These investments have led to business and community growth and this recognition verifies we are on a path to success.”

The Nebraska Diplomats is a group that travels the globe representing Nebraska, its people and businesses, and the group helps foster the growth of Nebraska. It is a non-profit corporation and is the largest economic development organization in the state, with a membership of more than 286 business executives and community leaders.

Walker Zulkoski, director of the NGage economic development group, said the regional awards were presented in four categories, and for Beatrice to claim two of them was a major achievement.

“They’re looking at the entire area of southeast Nebraska, and to get community of the year is a pretty big thing,” he said. “To be recognized from the Diplomats, who are some of the most key people in the state, who pick companies individuals and communities, is great.”

Additional factors leading to the award for Beatrice included the recent addition of new playground equipment, a skate park renovation, trail system improvements, and more than 40 new housing permit applications.

“The focus is on economic development, so jobs and investment,” Zulkoski said. “We truly had a year of being unmatched, even going beyond southeast Nebraska. They consider what we are investing in the community, and housing is a huge issue. A lot of communities are struggling to get any housing built.”

One of the businesses mentioned in support of Beatrice’s award, Rare Earth Salts, received its own honor and was presented with the Innovator of the Year award.

“We are honored to receive this award and are grateful to The Nebraska Diplomats,” Cameron Davies, CEO of Rare Earth Salts, said in a press release. “It is a testament to the passion and commitment that our founder, Dr. Joseph Brewer, and his team has shown in developing and commercializing our disruptive rare earth separation technology.”

Rare Earth Salts is a leading materials technology company and producer of rare earth oxides, according to the press release.

Rare Earth Salts has developed an innovative, high value, low cost and environmentally-friendly way to capture and refine all 16 rare earth elements to high purity.

This year, the company has signed multiple global commercial agreements, started commercial production of its innovative technology, and recently started a project for the United States Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory to recover High Purity Rare Earth Elements (REEs) from coal ash.

Rare Earth Salts has worked with partners to bring the technical expertise and capital necessary to compete in a global market place, according to a press release.


Local
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Local heroes memorialized by Beatrice probation office

Almost a year to the day after opening their new reporting center to the public, the probation office in Beatrice held a ceremony to commemorate two local members of law enforcement who made a big impact in their community.

To honor the memories of Gage County’s first probation officer, Cliff Wolf, Jr., and Jeremy Wach, a volunteer firefighter and member of the Gage County Sheriff’s Office, the District One Probation Office named two rooms after the local heroes.

Jeremy Behrends, chief probation officer for District One of Nebraska, said that the two were great men who dedicated their lives to serving the community. They had a belief that when you dedicate yourself to something, it makes a difference, he said.

Wolf worked as a probation officer in Gage County for 37 years and died in 2011. Wach was a jail administrator who died when a roof collapsed over him while he was fighting a fire with the Wymore Fire Department in 2007.

The rooms named for Wolf and Wach are places where people will start to change their lives, Behrends said. Whether it’s anger management, therapy or other programs, the group rooms at the probation office will offer classes that Behrends said will be aimed at lowering risk of crime to the community.

The reporting center itself aims to serve as a community resource by offering a variety of services for those on probation, including relapse prevention, therapy, a women’s trauma after-care group, crime victim empathy class and more.

Pieces of red cloth were hung over the new plaques in honor of the two men during the ceremony that attracted nearly fifty people.

The first to be unveiled was Wolf, who was remembered for being one-of-a-kind.

Former Gage County District Judge Paul Korslund remembered Wolf as someone who was loyal and dedicated to the community he served.

“He cared deeply about people,” Korslund said. “He was a tough probation officer. He would not tolerate anybody not telling him the truth. But he had a heart of gold. He was just a living, breathing part of the community.”

Korslund said that Wolf raised hunting dogs and got a dog for him once. A German shorthair, he said, which was a great dog, but had some odd habits.

“This dog would poop in its food dish,” Korslund said. “I never figured that out, but he was a great dog. Maybe that's just life. The people we serve, ourselves, sometimes we just poop in our food dish, and we need people like Cliff Wolf to help us along the way.”

Behrends presented Wolf’s wife, Dianna, with a replica of the plaque that remembered him as Gage County’s first probation officer.

Behrends then led the group to a room in the back corner named in memory of Wach, whose wife, Melissa, and sons, Joseph and Matthew, were at the ceremony. Sunday, Nov. 5 will mark the 10-year anniversary of Wach’s death.

Chief Deputy Douglas Klaus talked about his memories of Wach, saying Sheriff Millard Gustafson wanted to be there, but was out of state.

Wach was a hugger, Klaus said, and he made the best cheesecake. He was dedicated to his job, he said, and it was an honor knowing him. Both he and Gustafson keep a memento of Wach in their offices, he said.

“He was just a big, loving guy,” Klaus said.

While his children, who were three and one when he died, don’t really have any memories, Melissa Wach said that it’s surprising to her when people share memories of her husband, especially when so much time has passed.

“It's a little bit shocking, but it's heartwarming knowing we aren't the only ones remembering him,” she said. “We think of him every day, and we will think of him every day for the rest of our lives. It's nice to know that others still remember him from time to time, too.”


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Governor's Pheasant Hunt opens Friday

The 17th Annual Nebraska Governor’s Pheasant Hunt kicks off this Friday and, like all good things, it starts with meat.

On Saturday morning, 15 teams of five hunters will meet before the sun has come up to shoot pheasant, quail and clay targets, but dinner at Valentino’s on Friday promises something pretty exciting.

“Cargill brings some primo steaks for us,” said Rick Clabaugh, the event coordinator.

It takes about 125 people to make the pheasant hunt happen, Clabaugh said, and upwards of 45 hunting dogs. Spread out over about 3,000 acres around Gage County, the groups try to bag as many birds as they can in about four hours.

While he can’t make the entire 24-hour event, Clabaugh said, Governor Pete Ricketts will be in town for a couple hours of hunting on Saturday morning.

At 3 p.m. on Friday, groups from across the country will gather at the Beatrice Gun Club for registration and two hours of target shooting. They’ve had teams come from Florida, Texas, Washington and even a team of cadets came from West Point Military Academy in New York.

“They can practice a little bit,” Clabaugh said. “So hopefully the next morning, they'll be able to hit something.”

Then, it’s off to Valentino’s for a cocktail hour, followed by a steak dinner where Tim McCoy, deputy director of the Nebraska Game and Parks department will be speaking. The evening will include a silent auction and cash bar. That’s where the teams will meet their guides and dog handlers.

“We'll have people that will bring their dogs from Omaha, Crete, Lincoln, down into central Kansas,” Clabaugh said. “For a lot of people, this is an opportunity to get some work for their dogs. Dog people like to get their dogs on birds.”

The next morning, the group will meet at 6:30 for breakfast at Valentino’s before splitting up for the hunt.

The groups will be heading out to areas in eastern Gage County, all the way up north toward Cortland, said Michael Sothan, executive director of Main Street Beatrice.

The pheasant hunt has had a good response from land owners, Clabaugh said. They have been allowing groups to hunt on their ground over the years.

The hunters will stalk their quarry with help from hunting dogs and guides, bringing in as many pheasant and quail as they can bag. It’s an abundant year for quail, Clabaugh said, meaning there should be plenty for everyone.

“There's incentive for pheasants because there's not as many pheasants,” he said. “You get three points for a pheasant and one point for a quail.”

After 11:30 a.m., hunters will start to head back to the range for a check-in and a bird count. After everything’s counted up, a sporting clay shoot will help determine the winner if it’s close, Sothan said.

The winners will take home a trophy and a barbecue lunch will be served after. Hunters are reminded to bring their own beverages to the barbecue, but not to drink before or during the hunt.

They’re going with a new 24-hour format, Clabaugh said, rather than nearly two full days, which means people can get home for more important things.

“If they want to take off, they're able to get back,” he said. “This works around Nebraska football a little bit. Because there still is some interest in Nebraska football.”

The Governor’s Pheasant Hunt works to raise money for Main Street Beatrice, Clabaugh said. With yearly permission from the Nebraska governor, they can use the title for the hunt, which is based on a similar hunt from South Dakota. The idea of a Governor’s hunt has been spreading to surrounding states, Clabaugh said, including Iowa and Kansas.

“Since Governor Ricketts has been governor, he's been here every year,” he said. “He's just a joy to be around, just really enjoys hunting. He gets it and is really good about meeting everyone.”


Crime-and-courts
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Third man arrested in burglary case

A third man has been arrested in connection with a burglary that occurred last month in Beatrice.

Joshua L. May, 28, was arrested on a warrant and is charged with burglary, possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and possession of a stolen firearm.

While serving the warrant on May, they conducted a search of his person and found a substance determined to be methamphetamine and the additional charge is pending.

The burglary occurred Friday, Oct. 13 at a residence on Mary Street.

Early that morning, a victim said he was in the bathroom when he heard a noise and saw two subjects in his garage, police said. He ran to the front door and saw that his AR15 was missing from the couch in his living room and a CO2 gun was missing from his garage.

Police said the victim chased the subjects and caught up with them while they were getting into a dark colored Mercury or Ford SUV and was able to get a partial plate number.

One of the responding police officers remembered a car that matched the description at a Paddock Street home in Beatrice.

Police went to the address and saw the vehicle, a green Mercury Mountaineer, parked behind the residence and saw a male subject run from the backyard.

The owner of the vehicle was contacted and said that she had loaned the vehicle to three men she knew, police said. Police spoke with the homeowner and said that Chance A. Thigpen, 19, was in the basement of the home.

He allegedly told police that he went with three men to break into a house and was placed under arrest.

Around two weeks later, Logan A. Retherford, 18, was the second man arrested related to the burglary on a charge of aiding and abetting a class 2 felony.

May’s bond was set at $25,000 with a 10 percent deposit.