Chamber honors Bleemel’s community impact



JASPER — As a radio man and regular Jasper High School Athletic Department emcee, it’s rare for Bob Bleemel to be speechless. But it’s in exactly that state he found himself on Friday as he stood before the crowd at the Jasper Chamber of Commerce’s annual luncheon.

Former Chamber Board President Tom Moorman had just announced Bleemel as the recipient of the 2019 President’s Community Excellence Award, an annual award presented at the luncheon to someone who has “contributed generously of his or her time, talents or resources toward improving the Jasper community.” A keynote speaker — this year’s was U.S. Sen. Mike Braun of Jasper — and welcoming in the new board of directors are also traditions at the luncheon.

As Bleemel approached the podium to receive his award, lunch attendees offered him several congratulatory hugs and handshakes. By the time he reached the podium to speak, a smile stayed spread across his face.

“Wow,” he said. “You have no idea what this means to me.”

Bleemel has a long resume when it comes to community service. He’s been heavily involved with local youth sports, serving with Ireland Youth Sports Inc., youth boys basketball, women’s slow pitch softball, mini league girls slow pitch softball, the JHS fastpitch softball team and the JHS Athletic Department, in general.

In addition to his involvement in local sports, Bleemel also is or has been a member of the Ireland Knights of Columbus, Jasper Rotary, Jasper Strassenfest Committee, Ireland St. Pat’s Committee, Ferdinand Heimatfest Committee, Jasper Chamber of Commerce and several others. He works in the sales department of WITZ and WQKZ.

In his acceptance remarks, Bleemel encouraged everyone to get involved in the community and find ways to give back.


Bleemel wasn’t the only one who got a surprise at Friday’s luncheon. Braun was also caught off guard when Chamber Director Nancy Eckerle announced that his wife, Maureen — who owns Finishing Touches, a home decor store in Jasper — would introduce him. In her introduction, Maureen shared details about Mike that “he thinks nobody else knows about him,” including his love for hunting and fishing — though she advised not asking him to reveal his spots — and his passion for the English language. The Herald crossword puzzle, she said, is one of his daily activities.

In his address, Mike steered clear of most of the political issues in the news, focusing instead on the lessons he learned while building his business — Meyer Distributing — in his hometown of Jasper.

“Patience, perseverance are really the two words you need to pay attention to more than windfall and get rich quick,” Braun said in regards to building a successful career.

He shared the story of his first office — a single-wide trailer — and the way he used common-sense business decisions to build a successful business career.

“Good, common-sense decisions are not part of my new job,” Braun said.

In his first year as a U.S. Senator, Braun said, he’s learned that the dysfunction on Capitol Hill is worse than he imagined. The country’s leadership, he said, is full of career politicians who got into politics to make it a career rather than to serve the people.

“If you really want to fix D.C., you could fix it with one simple stroke — term limits,” Braun said. “The Founders created this country, and they were much better than all the folks that are there now because they had a different point of view.”

The founders, Braun said, were in it to try the experiment of democracy and liberty, not to become kings or permanent presidents. Today’s politicians, Braun said, are in it for the career opportunities and see no problems with that system.

Braun also suggested electing more business leaders to office, specifically people who have experienced “the real world” and seen how decisions in Washington affect local people.

He also spoke about one of his main issues — health care. In his business, Braun said, he and his team created a health care benefit that focuses on wellness, not remediation of illness.

“We came up with something where we keep the best of what we’ve got, and we take the cost out of it by making it consumer-driven and based on wellness, not remediation,” Braun said.

He’d like to see a similar consumer-driven system that is based on competition looked at as a solution to national health care issues.

“If you don’t stick your neck out, if you don’t take chances — and I’m preaching to the choir here because you all do it— you’re not going to fix things,” he said.

Braun’s main message harkened back to his Jasper roots: patience, perseverance and investing your way to prosperity.

“Good things can happen,” Braun said.

The 2019 board of directors for the chamber of commerce included president, Tom Moorman; vice president, Mark Fierst; and members Tim Gray, Dr. Tim Barry, Opal Sermersheim, Angie Kleinhelter, Sheri Keller, Rachel Levin, Cody Ziegler, Bernie Kreilein and Christian Blome.

Outgoing board members are Moorman, Fierst, Barry, Gray, Keller, Kleinhelter and Sermersheim.

The 2020 board of directors are president, Rachel Levin; vice president, Kate Schwenk; secretary, Ted Miller; treasurer, Bernie Kreilein; and members Cody Ziegler, Christian Blome, Mike Horney, Patrick Uebelhor, Mary Leah Siegel, Ruger Kerstiens, Adam Wendholt, Michelle Renner, Morgan Thewes and Denise Izzolena.

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