ANAMOOSE - Alyce Heer looks for ways to make her community better. Then she rolls up her sleeves and gets to work to make it happen.
" I am just really proud to be from Anamoose," Heer said. "I enjoy the people and the community, and people are so good about helping out."
Heer can rattle off a list of local residents that she's seen blossom into leaders or contribute their talents to the community. She also has friends she freely enlists when she sets off on one of her projects. She prefers to see her own role as a promoter and helper rather than a leader, although she is that at times as well.
Jill Schramm/MDN • Alyce Heer stands next to the Anamoose sign featuring Joe and Ana Moose.
Heer was chairwoman of the steering committee during Anamoose's participation in Horizons, an 18-month statewide leadership and anti-poverty program, during 2007-2008.
Through Horizons, Anamoose developed a city brochure, organized a welcome wagon for new residents and visiting hunters, set up a monthly calendar and created two Web sites, (www.anamoose.com) and (www.anamoose.wordpress.com). The second is where Heer blogs and posts photos about community happenings. She said the community's two other bloggers have limited time to give to the Web site so she takes on a large part of the job of keeping residents updated.
Other advances she has seen include a home-rule charter and a 1 percent sales tax, a Renaissance Zone to provide tax incentives to fix up buildings, installation of rural water, a community garden and Sunday brunches hosted by the senior citizens since the cafe is open only Tuesday through Saturday.
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Heer heads a citizens planning committee, which has continued to promote projects for the town of 236 residents now that Horizons has concluded.
"We found that it's really good for the community to have some definite goals and plans," Heer said.
Some of the town's current goals include restoring an old bank building on Main Street, paving city streets and repairing sidewalks and curbs. A survey to elicit the community's thoughts on turning an eight-plex operated as public housing into private apartments is under way. Plans are moving forward to rebuild an ice skating rink in a new location after sacrificing the original spot for a new fire hall.
Heer also chairs the Anamoose Area Community Foundation, which provides grants to community projects. In the past three years, more than $9,000 has gone to the fire department, park board, Tri-county Senior Meals & Services, Civic Club and City of Anamoose. Each year, Anamoose works to raise $10,000 to obtain a North Dakota Community Foundation match to grow its fund. The foundation plans a corn feed Aug. 21 to raise money.
Heer was used to a busy schedule as director of nursing at St. Aloisius Medical Center in Harvey. After she retired in 1997, she turned her attention to her community, serving as chairwoman for the Anamoose centennial in 1998. Then she found her niche in economic development.
She is involved on the Anamoose and McHenry County Job Development Authorities and a quad-county economic development group. She has been active in the Center of North America Coalition and the Rural Economic Area Partnership Zone.
"She's a huge asset," said Maria Effertz Hanson, McHenry County JDA director, Velva. "If you need something done in Anamoose, you give Alyce a call."
Every community could use several residents like her, Effertz Hanson said.
"We would be able to really work together and progress a lot quicker," she said.
Heer goes beyond serving on committees. When she learned the out-of-town owner of a neighboring house had a potential buyer, she organized the sprucing up of the property to encourage the sale. She is a big proponent of beautification, including a recent project to paint vacant buildings on Main Street. Heer assists in watering the potted plants decorating Main Street and tending to the garden around the city entrance sign that features city mascots Joe and Ana Moose.
Heer proposed creating Ana and marrying off the couple in a wedding ceremony in in 2008. Many people thought the idea crazy at the time, and some still think so, Heer said with a smile. However, news of the mock wedding spread nationally and internationally, putting Anamoose on the map. People from Europe, Alaska and other locations wrote with their congratulations, Heer said.
In 2009, Anamoose followed up with the celebration of the moose couple's first anniversary. There was no celebration this year, but the civic club is hosting its annual community party with a demolition derby and street dance Aug. 13.
In the last mayoral election, for which no one filed, Heer and lumberyard owner Mike Rudnick tied on write-ins. Heer was relieved to lose the coin toss. Rudnick jokes that Heer won the coin toss, but he shares Heer's pride in Anamoose as an attractive place to live. He credits the Horizons program with giving a good community a chance to become even better.
"It's helped focus on who we are and where we want to go," he said, adding that Heer has been valuable in that process.
"It's good to have somebody that has the time and the energy to push and get some of those types of things going and keep them going," Rudnick said.
When not working on a project for Anamoose, Heer enjoys traveling, quilting and reading. She has donated quilts for fund-raising raffles of community groups. She and her husband, Vernon, have three children living in Bismarck, three grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.
Given all her community and committee work, Heer said her husband now quips that there's no point in him answering the phone since the calls are all for her. But she sees her efforts paying off for Anamoose.
"In going to all these meetings, like Horizons, you get to know other communities and you get to know all the agencies the federal agencies and state agencies and that's really a plus," she said. "You learn from each other what other communities are doing. We are not just isolated anymore."