Photo: Back row, left to right: Reece Jensen, City Administrator; Ricky Hightower, Councilman; (holding award) Mick Kozeal, Mayor; Gerry Sheets, Councilman; Kris Lamb, Economic Development Director; (front row seated) Tim Clayton, Councilman; Gwenda Horky, Clerk; Micky Schneider, City Council President
Sargent recognized as Nebraska’s 26th Leadership Certified Community
The Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) has recognized the City of Sargent (pop. 525) for leaders’ efforts to market opportunities for growth in their community. DED announced this week that the village has qualified for membership in the State of Nebraska’s Leadership Certified Community (LCC) program. DED Business Development Consultant and LCC Program Coordinator Kelly Gewecke recognized local officials during a special presentation at the City’s board meeting on Monday, September 9.
Sargent is Nebraska’s 26th community to qualify for DED’s LCC program, created in 2011 to help Nebraska communities adapt to ongoing changes and opportunities in economic development. Qualifying communities must demonstrate an understanding for and preparedness in strategic and community planning, and display readiness in technological development to help new and existing businesses grow. Certified communities earn designation in the program for five years, and are required to update and maintain information and websites.
Over the past decade, city leaders have capitalized on local tools to boost opportunities in economic development. An extensive community-wide campaign resulted in the passage of LB840 in 2012. The Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act authorizes incorporated cities and villages to appropriate local tax dollars for economic development projects. Sargent’s LB840 funds have assisted in the formation of several new businesses and provided an additional way to attract alumni back to the community. One of Sargent’s alumni families recently utilized additional economic development funding for assistance in remodeling a local hotel.
Over the past several years, leaders have focused on youth involvement to revitalize community growth. An entrepreneurial class at Sargent Public Schools inspired the creation of a school coffee shop, which relocated downtown for the summer. High school students solely manage the business, S’Cool Beans.
“Nebraska’s evolving Leadership Certified Community program encourages leaders to create new ways to market ongoing opportunities in our villages and cities,” said LCC Coordinator Gewecke. “Sargent’s successful school partnership not only helped establish a new business, it’s also a great incentive for talented young people to build their careers and lives in rural Nebraska.”
Mayor Mick Kozeal cited local leaders Gwenda Horky and Kristina Lamb for spearheading Sargent’s LCC application process, which included conducting a community needs survey with area residents. When the survey established demand for a local preschool, Sargent Public Schools began operating pre-k classes.
Recovery efforts following recent severe flooding continue to build strong relationships in Sargent. One local alumni began fundraising with area leaders after the March 2019 flood; this provided financial assistance for several affected families.
“Our community’s ability to come together and step up in this time of need exemplifies our great quality of life,” said City Administrator Reece Jensen. “Mayor Kozeal and his team are proud of the generosity and comradery shown by residents in our efforts to rebuild. By working together, we are creating new opportunities to sustain and grow Sargent for years to come.”
For information about the Leadership Certified Community program, contact Kelly Gewecke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 308-627-3151; or, visit