Joe and Colleen Unterreiner
Nov 9, 2023
Daily Inter Lake

Joe and Colleen Unterreiner Receive Kalispell Chamber’s Highest Honor

A couple who are longtime community supporters are being honored with the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce’s most prestigious award. 

Joe and Colleen Unterreiner are the recipients of the 52nd Flathead Legacy Award, which recognizes those who have a civic and volunteer spirit that spans a lifetime and creates a legacy for the community. 

The award honoring them and several other community members and businesses were presented at the chamber’s annual Grand Event on Wednesday night at the Wachholz College Center.

Since coming home to Montana, the Unterreiners have become pillars of the community. 

Joe served as the president and CEO of the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce, while Colleen put her passion for education to work at Flathead Valley Community College. 

Joe served 24 years with the chamber. His passion for advocacy and infrastructure, with community partners, has influenced the city, according to the chamber. The Parkline Trail and the U.S. 93 bypass are two examples of success. 

“Joe is gregarious, approachable and incredibly knowledgeable about business matters and the world in general,” his nomination said.

Joe's reach has extended beyond the chamber, as shown by the numerous boards and panels and other community and state organizations he was invited to join and happy to serve.

Colleen has been described as exuding intoxicating positivity. In her role at FVCC’s Foundation, Colleen helped raise funds for student scholarships and new facilities on campus. She instituted innovation grants that awarded money to a wide variety of programs and projects to help better serve students. She was instrumental in the fundraising that brought about the Wachholz College Center. Colleen’s smile, energy, and charisma are known throughout the community through her volunteerism for so many local organizations, according to the chamber. 

Businessperson of the Year – Joe Kola

This award recognizes an owner/manager who is an outstanding business leader. 

Joe Kola is the Flathead Market President of Stockman Bank.  He successfully brought Stockman Bank to the Flathead Valley in 2021 with the opening of the Kalispell branch, and just this year opened the Whitefish branch. He leads a team of 36 employees and remains an active commercial lender, as well. 

Kola is the vice chair of the Logan Health Foundation board and serves on their bylaws committee and finance committee. He also serves on the FVCC Foundation, chairs its finance committee, and serves on its young professionals committee. Joe is also the treasurer and secretary for the Glacier AERO board.

Educator of the Year – Mike Lincoln, Reach Higher Montana 

This award recognizes a program, department or an educator. 

After a long and successful career in education, Mike Lincoln retired from his role as assistant principal at Flathead High School in 2019. He wasn’t done being an educator, however, and Reach Higher Montana was able to hire him to help students throughout the Flathead as the Reach Higher Montana Outreach Advisor for the area. 

In this role, Lincoln works throughout the region to help students find their paths or career interests and then help them pursue and achieve their goals for life after high school. Lincoln is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about his work, and truly believes in the potential of students. In just the last year, Lincoln provided services to over 4,000 students.

In one of the letters of support, the nominator shared that “he pursues his work without an ego or need for recognition — he values maximizing community resources for the benefit of students and their families, and that alone is commendable.”

Business of the Year – Large – WGM Group

This award recognizes a large business of the year defined as having 26 or more full-time equivalent employees. 

WGM Group is a growing and successful engineering firm making a huge difference in Kalispell, the Flathead Valley, and other locations they serve, according to the chamber.  

WGM has created a team passionate about serving the community that aligns with their mission statement and values. Their growth as a company has contributed to the greater good of the Flathead community. 

WGM has cultivated a company culture that focuses on the larger community. Nearly all employees volunteer in the communities they live in and take pride in their involvement. They have presented to high school students to spark interest in engineering, architecture and more. 

Over the past 50-plus years, WGM has evolved from its core of civil engineering services to become a comprehensive planning, design, and engineering firm. 

Business of the Year – Small-Medium – KGEZ

This award recognizes a business with 25 full-time employees or less that stands out in their industry as a leader and continuously strives to be their best. 

John Hendricks is the owner of KGEZ radio station. For years, he has been the voice many wake up to in the morning. KGEZ creates environments that connect listeners with businesses, community needs and education, and to causes and people that impact the community every day, according to the chamber. 

Nonprofit of the Year - My Glacier Village

The nominated business and leadership stand out in their field of expertise and area of service. My Glacier Village is mission-driven, laser-focused, innovative and considered valued partners in the community. They utilize sound business practices with their clientele, employees, and vendors and are respected among their peers, according to the chamber. 

The nonprofit is led by founder Jenn Prunty and a seven member board of directors. 

My Glacier Village is a local chapter of a national nonprofit organization started in 2002 by a group of retirees in Boston, who had all cared for their elderly parents. Following the national model, not only are seniors helping each other with things like rides to appointments, getting groceries, or small home projects, but they have created this organization right here in the Flathead. Their volunteers range in age from 54 to 93. 

Community Spirit of the Year Award – Maren “Marney” McCleary

This award recognizes an individual who is making a powerful difference in the greater Kalispell community. 

Marney McCleary has spent more than 30 years tirelessly working on affordable and attainable housing in Northwest Montana. During her time at Community Action Partnership of Northwest Montana, she was the catalyst for creating the Northwest Montana Community Land Trust purchasing 52 foreclosed homes in Kalispell, rehabbing them, and selling them to low-income households, creating the largest CLT in the state at the time.

McCleary began working for Rural Community Assistance Corpora in 2017 as a Senior Project Developer. Since working with RCAC, McCleary has helped create affordable housing opportunities nationwide including a multi-family apartment project in Ronan, and is currently working with the Samaritan House in Kalispell to create 18 affordable apartment units for families and 14 units of dedicated veterans housing.

She has served on multiple boards in her career and currently serves on the Board for the Whitefish Housing Authority, Montana Board of Housing, and the Flathead Kennel Club, and raises AKC registered labrador retrievers.

Chamber Partner of the Year – Flathead Beacon

The chamber honors the Flathead Beacon as the Chamber Partner of the Year. The Flathead Beacon provided office space to the chamber for visitor information during the summer and fall of this year. 

Ambassador of the Year Award 

Dana Labuda-Viola has been a chamber ambassador for four years, served on the Flathead Area Young Professionals, and is a graduate of Leadership Flathead. As chair of Discover Kalispell Chamber’s Ambassadors, her leadership was instrumental in redesigning the goals and priorities of the group. As the public relations arm of the chamber, she inspired, motivated, and engaged members at r events. She excels at building long-lasting relationships and business partnerships that grow successful companies in Kalispell, says the chamber.