Walking into the annual recognition banquet Friday night, Bryan Hisel was unaware he'd be leaving with two awards.
One award was the "Order of the Stache," bestowed upon him by Lt. Gov. Matt Michels, who was serving as the emcee of the annual recognition banquet Friday at the Highland Conference Center for the Mitchell Chamber of Commerce, Mitchell Area Development Corporation and Mitchell Main Street and Beyond.
But it was the second award that was the most prestigious — and the most surprising for Hisel. It was the Community Service Award.
Hisel serves as the executive director for both the chamber and the development corporation. Recently, he announced his retirement after more than three decades working for the Mitchell community. And in those 30-plus years, he made an immense impact, earning him the Community Service Award.
"None of us has ever needed to doubt that when a person, an organization, a business, a manufacturer or any other opportunity knocked on Mitchell's door, with Bryan Hisel, we were guaranteed that we were putting our best foot forward, and truly not just our best, but South Dakota's best," said John McFarland, who was one of several speakers honoring Hisel.
Hisel became executive director in 1985 to help economic development in Mitchell. Now, more than three decades later, Hisel has done that and more, according to McFarland and former state Sen. Mike Vehle, who also spoke of Hisel's accomplishments.
Hisel helped develop "complex" deals involving expansion, recruitment of companies in the Mitchell area including as Toshiba, Graphic Packaging, Trail King Industries, Vantage Point and Cabela's, Vehle said.
"Over the course of Bryan's ... years, Mitchell has transformed into a community that has earned positive attention regionally and even internationally," Vehle said.
In fall 2017, Hisel was awarded the Alumni Achievement Award by the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. And a few years earlier, Hisel coordinated a local effort that shined a national spotlight on Mitchell as it was named among the top intelligent communities in the world.
Hisel is the "glue" that has held the community together, Vehle added. But Hisel disagrees.
Hisel said he has benefitted most of all.
"It's been an honor and a privilege to serve. I'm here tonight these many years later because I was given a second chance," Hisel said.
In the first few years as director, Hisel said he had lost his way. But it was the support of the board of directors and the community that kept him going for an additional 30 years.
"They remembered tonight the beginning, and I know the middle and the in between," Hisel said. "But because a group of people said, 'Try again,' I have been privileged to serve for a long time, working for the best men and women in this community that I could have ever hoped for."
Below is an additional list of rewards from the evening:
Tourism Excellence Award
For "significant contributions" to the tourism industry and Mitchell community for more than 40 years, the Prehistoric Indian Village has been chosen as the recipient of the Tourism Excellence Award.
An average 13,000 visitors stop by the Prehistoric Indian Village annually, and more than 1,700 student tours took place in 2017.
With recent renovations, the Prehistoric Indian Village has also propelled local tourism, earning itself the Tourism Excellence Award.
Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce Volunteer of the Year Award
Nathan Sparks' enthusiastic spirit has earned him the Volunteer of the Year Award.
Known for his "ag-in-the-classroom" events each year, Sparks visits schools to teach more students about the agriculture industry.
"I'm truly honored. Ag-in-the-classroom is quite the event we put on and there's several others that are very deserving of this award," Sparks said. "We have fun ... It's a good deal."
Main Street Champion Award
If you need a volunteer, Bobbie Clark can always be relied on.
For this, she is being awarded the Main Street Champion Award. Clark has served as interim director for Mitchell Main Street and Beyond, as well as lead the charge for the group's largest fundraiser each year.
"You're doing it because it comes from the heart and when you believe in what you do, it's not work," Clark said of being a volunteer. "Sometimes it's fun and sometimes it is overwhelmingly wonderful."
Mitchell Area Family Business of the Year Award
Krall Eye Clinic has generations of impact in Palace City. Founded in 1901 by James Krall, the clinic has grown immensely and has seen four generations build on its continued legacy.
Now, more than 100 years later, Krall Eye Clinic and the Krall family have been selected the recipient of the Mitchell Area Family Business of the Year Award.
"Mitchell has been an incredible community to be involved in," Jeff Krall said. " ... My parents, grandparents who came before us did such an incredible job and they really just wanted to serve. We live in a great community, and we're so blessed to be here."