Vance and Lastusky to receive 2019 Making Fort Special awards

Fort Atkinson Community Foundation

The Fort Atkinson Community Foundation is pleased to announce that James Vance and Scott Lastusky are the 2019 recipients of the Foundation’s Making Fort Special award. The two men will be feted at a special awards reception at the Hoard Museum on Thursday, September 12th from 5 to 7 p.m. with an award presentation at 5:30 p.m. Heavy appetizers, beer, wine and ice tea will be served. Cost to attend is $20, with any additional amount going to support the work of the Foundation. For ticket information or to RSVP, contact Sue Hartwick, the Foundation’s executive director, at (920) 563-3210 or via email at facf@fortfoundation.org.

The Making Fort Special award is the brainchild of former Foundation director Phil Niemeyer who wanted to draw attention to those in our community who have championed a project or conducted an activity that has helped to make Fort Atkinson a special place to live. The inaugural 2017 awards were presented to Steve Mode and Joel Winn.

“Our intention is to make these awards every other year,” explained Foundation chairman Kristin Wallace, “recognizing those individuals whose work has made a real difference in our community. We think it’s important to acknowledge and thank community members who take on projects and get things done.”

Vance and Lastusky were selected by the Foundation’s Board of Directors from among seven names put forward by a nominating committee.

James Vance
A graduate of Fort Atkinson High School, class of 1951, Jim Vance went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in math and physics from Beloit College, followed by a law degree from UW-Madison in 1958. For the next 60 years, Jim devoted himself to practicing law in Fort Atkinson and to assisting critical nonprofit organizations in our city, such as Fort Memorial Hospital and the Industrial Development Corporation. However, no organization has benefited from his community service as much as the Fort Atkinson Community Foundation.

Over the past 46 years, the Community Foundation has distributed almost $21 million in countless grants to benefit our community and residents, and Jim Vance has watched every one of them go out the door. Serving as legal counsel to the Foundation since its inception in 1973, Jim also toiled as Secretary to the Foundation Board for over 40 years.

“Jim’s donation of his time and talent to the Community Foundation is unsurpassed,” stated current Foundation Chairman Kristin Wallace. “And if we’ve been able to help make Fort Atkinson a special place, it’s because Jim helped to make the Community Foundation what it is today.”

As former Foundation director and administrator Helen Rose noted, Jim’s vision and guidance were instrumental to the success of the Community Foundation. “In the early days,” Helen remarked, “Jim counseled the directors to preserve and grow the limited assets. Then when grants could be made, I recall that Jim was the one to suggest the concept of using Foundation funds to challenge some degree of ‘match’ from the community. That has proven to be very successful.”

And today, Jim continues to assist local nonprofit organizations who seek to make Fort Atkinson a better place to live. His latest contribution has been helping Rock River Heritage with the restoration of the old Masonic Temple downtown and the operation of their new Fort Atkinson Club.

“It was a lucky day when we asked Jim to help us get The Fort Atkinson Club organized,” acknowledged former Rock River Heritage president Joan Jones. “Jim got all the legal procedures underway and from the beginning to the present day he has been involved in all aspects of the Club. His help, enthusiasm and dedication has assured the Club’s success.” Joan also pointed out that Jim’s grandfather was a member of the original 1913 Fort Atkinson Club which had the building constructed, noting his family’s long connection to our community.

Scott Lastusky
As Director of the Fort Atkinson Parks & Recreation Department since 1990, Scott Lastusky has had a hand in many projects and recreation programs, helping to make Fort Atkinson a special place to live. He was instrumental in the design and construction of the Glacial River Bike/Pedestrian Trail, the stadium seats and renovations to the Jones Park baseball facilities, the original construction and consistent upgrades to the Fort Atkinson Aquatic Center, and creating the concourse area to improve safety at the Ralph Park softball area, to name just a few.

And while these projects are noteworthy in their own right, Scott is being honored with the Making Fort Special award for always going ‘above-and-beyond’ his job description and for his positive approach to community improvements.

Whether it be a small scouting project proposed for Rock River Park, a nostalgic and eager group of volunteers anxious to recreate the warming shed at Haumerson’s Pond, or Project Lead groups taking on major construction projects like the Barrie Park bathroom facility or the Veteran’s Memorial out at McCoy Park, Scott embraces their efforts along with all the challenges they bring. These unsolicited volunteer projects often begin with a great idea but also often come with unrealistic budgets, unclear funding, foggy notions of ongoing maintenance and staffing, and a lack of knowledge ranging from park usage to purchasing procedures. Every proposed project means more work for Scott and his staff and a less conscientious leader would find it ever so easy to say, “sorry, we can’t do that.”

But Scott is different. He works hard to find his way to ‘yes.’ He does this by listening and then responding in a positive but practical manner, engaging the group and coaching them as to how it can work, explaining what his challenges will be and how they could help by modifying the project. Instead of just lamenting tight budgets, he understands that working with volunteer groups is the only way to continue to add amenities to our community parks. He does what’s best for our community, not what’s easiest for him.

As his colleague Brett Ketterman noted, “Scott is always willing to do anything it takes to complete a project. He has worked with a multitude of groups. Some groups have existed for sixty plus years, some are new each year. No matter the group or project, Scott demonstrates grace, professionalism and enthusiasm.”

Brett’s comments are echoed by Scott’s administrative assistant Trista Taylor. “I get to see first-hand each day how hard he works behind the scenes to make sure great things continue to happen in Fort,” confirmed Trista. “He truly loves this City, and his passion shows every day as he continues to work on the various projects that will better this community.”

Most appreciative of all is Scott’s boss, City Manager Matt Trebatoski. Matt noted that under Scott’s 29-year tenure, despite significant fiscal constraints, the city has been able to continuously expand its park and recreational offerings. “Scott,” Matt noted, “is a true leader who comes to the table with solutions and not just problems. He consistently finds creative ways to get things done.”

For more information about the Making Fort Special awards, the upcoming reception or the community foundation, contact Hartwick, at (920) 563-3210 or via email at facf@fortfoundation.org.