Jane A. Karas
Nov 10, 2022
Daily Inter Lake

Jane Karas Honored With Chamber’s Highest Honor

Flathead Valley Community College’s President Jane Karas is the recipient of the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce’s Flathead Legacy Award.

A number of awards were handed out at the chamber’s annual Grand Event Wednesday night at the Wachholz College Center.

Known for being the Kalispell chamber’s oldest and most prestigious award, recipients of the honor have a civic and volunteer spirit that spans a lifetime and creates a legacy for the community.

Karas began working at FVCC in 1999 as the vice president of Student and Academic Affairs, and was selected as the FVCC President in 2001.

Karas has been described as approachable, available, approaching goals with an unmitigated “can do and anything is achievable” attitude, thoughtful leader, community-oriented, a uniter, passionate, humble, focused, impactful and more. As one of her many nominators said “Legacy is a good word to use when talking about Dr. Jane Karas. She has led a small junior college from a modest start to one of the most respected community college successes in the nation.” Expansions of the campus, including new teaching buildings, dormitories, and the new Wachholz College Center and Performing Arts building just one part of her many legacies that will remain in the Valley forever.

Her work has directly benefited and impacted the Flathead and thousands of other businesses in the community through her successful students and their journeys to employees, the chamber notes. She is active in Rotary, chairing hospital boards and numerous other community activities.

Businessperson of the Year – Doug Shanks

For 47 years, Doug Shanks has served the communities of the Flathead and beyond growing from one location to 12 locations and over 400 employees with Western Building Center. He has created well-paying jobs, training programs in high schools, started a scholarship program for his employees’ children, and a mentoring program.

He has served on boards across the county including Habitat for Humanity, North Valley Hospital, Student Build, Sapa-Johnsrud Baseball field, FVCC and others.

As shared in the nomination, “Doug would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. He is always there for his team and community”.

Educator of the Year – Micah Hill

Established to honor educational programs or professionals, the Educator of the Year award went to Micah Hill, Superintendent of School District 5.

During his rookie year as superintendent, Hill led Kalispell through one of the most challenging periods in recent history and kept Kalispell schools open during a global pandemic.

Hill was a leader in getting students the technology they needed to successfully participate in virtual instruction when necessary. He kept approximately 750 people employed in the community during a time when many businesses in the Flathead were shutting down or downsizing.

He developed creative ways to recruit and retain staff when employees were difficult to find, the chamber notes, saying he has done all this with grit, grace and compassion.

Hill has shown the ability to respectfully work alongside whoever is in the room, according to a release, and he is admired by his peers and his community and always puts families and children first.

Business of the Year – Large – Mann Mortgage

Founded in 1989 in Kalispell, Mann Mortgage has grown far and wide and now provides home loans to families in 21 states across 44 offices. They are a family owned business with 140 employees in the Flathead Valley and 470 people across 21 states.

They have won distinctions for both the services they provide and the incredible work culture and environment they have created. They support multiple Valley nonprofits with their employees’ time and expertise as well as financial donations, including Habitat for Humanity, ImagineIF library, Montana Children’s at Logan, Kalispell Parks and Recreation, and Columbia Falls Community Market to name just a few. Mann Mortgage makes Kalispell a better place to live, work, and play, the chamber notes.

Business of the Year – Small/Medium – Bias Brewing

Gabe Mariman and his partner Adam opened Bias Brewing in 2018 with a mission to “create a community through quality craft beer.” They have created a gathering space and amazing craft beers that are much loved and have built a sense of community within their doors, according to the chamber.

This has also been greatly extended by Mariman’s service to Kalispell outside of the brewery. He serves on the Kalispell Downtown Association board, the Kalispell Business Improvement District Board, leads the Kalispell chamber’s successful child care initiative, spearheads Frosty the Brewfest, and just recently was the impetus for the new KDA fall run fundraiser. Bias accomplished all of this while purchasing the former Kalispell Brewing, selling Bias previous First Avenue location, remodeling and relocating all within less than an eight-week period.

Nonprofit of the Year

Immanuel Lutheran Communities has been serving the greater Kalispell community for 65 years. Providing “purposeful living” to senior citizens is a tenant strongly guiding them as they provide a spectrum of care and living options.

They pride themselves on encouraging employee participation in service and community engagement — from Rotary to Leadership Flathead, Montana Health Care Association, Hospital Association, Glacier Symphony and Chorale, and more. Always listening to the needs of their residents, employees and community, the chamber notes, they have answered the call and opened a child care early learning facility to address this growing challenge as an employee benefit which opens up other opportunities for children in other centers.

Rising Star of the Year – Adam Cebulla

Recognizing an individual under the age of 30 who demonstrates a passion for their career and community, the Rising Star of the Year was given to Adam Cebulla of J2 Business Productions.

As a part of his leadership team, Cebulla consistently and continually shows up with innovative ideas and motivates all of those he works with, according to the chamber. He has a team spirit that works to add value to his company instead of being siloed in his division. His strong work ethic and sales skill are growing, and he is always looking for ways to be involved and support local businesses.

He was a chamber ambassador and enjoys supporting local events, serves on the board of the Kalispell Education Foundation, and is always working on self-improvement.

Community Spirit of the Year Award – Tony Brockman

Recognizing an individual who is making a powerful difference in the greater Kalispell community, the Community Spirit Award was given to Tony Brockman.

It is simply impossible to cover all of the involvement, service, and community engagement activities that Brockman has been involved in throughout Kalispell, Evergreen, and the Flathead as a young and growing young professional, the chamber notes. He serves, or has served, on the Flathead County Economic Development Authority board, assisted with the Gateway Community Center restructuring, as a trustee for the Evergreen Rural Fire District, and more. He is known for saying, “Decisions are made by those who show up.”

His passion and desire to ensure the community’s vitality shines through in all he does, the chamber says.