Ashland Area Development Corp. selected Betsey Harries as the organization’s next executive director. She will replace Dale Kupczyk, who is retiring after a 19-year career with AADC.
“The board sought a dynamic person who could not only provide leadership, but demonstrated a commitment to working collaboratively and displayed a passion for the Chequamegon Bay area,” said Jason Douglas, AADC board president and president and CEO of Memorial Medical Center. “Harries checks those boxes plus she exhibits an abundance of energy, strong communication skills and a desire to learn, making her an excellent fit for the position.”
“This is an important time in Ashland County’s history, with many crucial economic development decisions being made,” Harries said in the Friday announcement. “The AADC executive director position is an opportunity through which I can contribute to positive change and help strengthen the quality of life in my community.”
She was born and grew up in Ashland, graduating from Ashland High School in 1979.
“I’m familiar with the history, the struggles, and the successes of the Chequamegon Bay area and the people who call it home. Since earning my degree in forestry from UW-Stevens Point in 1984, I’ve traveled and lived in many different places,” she said.
A military veteran, Harries received an officer commission in the Marine Corps the day she graduated from college. She served as the provost marshal (another name for military police chief) for three U.S. Marine Corps installations in southern California and Okinawa, Japan, supervising the law enforcement, airfield security and structural fire departments.
“The leadership training I received while I served in the Marine Corps were, and still are, invaluable. My commitment to taking care of my employees, co-workers and supervisors was forged during my military service.”
After separating from the military in 1992, Harries was employed as a forester and a wildland firefighter with the Missouri Department of Conservation and with Douglas County Forestry in Solon Springs. She also spent several years working for the U.S. Forest Service, writing and editing documents for public review.
“During my career, I’ve worked for federal, state, and county governments, as well as non-profits and retail,” she said.
Harries owns a 10-year-old art business named “Sweetgrass Trading Company
“I started my company after taking a business class from the Northeast Entrepreneur Fund in Northeastern Minnesota. Honestly, when I signed up for the class, I was half-hoping it would convince me that starting my own business was a terrible idea and I should just go back to working for somebody else. Starting your own business can be pretty intimidating. But what I found was a large pool of resources available to help teach and mentor me through my first few years of starting a business. I would not have been successful if not for the encouragement and training I received from economic development resources and fellow business owners.”
Harries’ artwork has earned fifteen recognition and monetary awards for original art work at juried art shows and professional exhibitions.
Since 2013, Harries has been the sustainability coordinator at Northland College. An important part of her job was teaching students how to develop their own sustainable business or community-based volunteer program through hands-on work experiences that emphasize economic, social, and environmental considerations.
“It’s not enough to just teach students how to grow vegetables for their own enjoyment and consumption. We want them to learn all aspects of starting a successful small farm, which includes the financial aspect. Other students involved in the program will learn how to organize a community garden from scratch and go on to teach 10 or 100 or 1,000 other people how to grow healthy food. Similarly, we want students to learn how to repair bikes, but we also want them to learn the multiple business aspects required to start their own bike shop, so that wherever in the world they end up after they graduate, they have the business and sustainability foundations to be successful and, just as important, teach others along the way.”