For Matt Fong, his first four years on the Hastings City Council have been a learning experience.
Fong, who turns 40 this week, is running for re-election in the Fourth Ward against challenger Roger Harper.
“I certainly feel like I’ve learned a lot about our city government and also our community over the course of the last four years,” Fong said. “There have obviously been lots of surprises over the course of the last four years, as well. So I don’t know that anyone would’ve forecasted some of the discussions and challenges we’ve seen, but I really do feel like we are well positioned to focus on the future now for our community over the course of the upcoming four years.”
Fong is the director of fundraising and outreach at the Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center.
He previously served as associate vice president for alumni relations at Hastings College, from which he graduated in 2005. After working for the Arbor Day Foundation for two years, Fong returned to Hastings in 2007.
He and his wife, Kaleena, have one daughter, Vivian.
“The community of Hastings for me has been the place where I’ve really grown into who I am,” he said.
He came to Hastings as a Hastings College freshman in 2001.
“The community of Hastings has been foundational to my growth and development as a community member, as a person, as an employee, as a husband and father,” he said. “I feel like I have a lot to be grateful for for the community of Hastings in allowing me and my family to be actively engaged in the community and be able to grow and develop in a really positive way.”
For much of his time in Hastings, Fong has served on a variety of boards and committees. He currently is the council liaison on the Hastings Economic Development Corp. board of directors and liaison to the Hastings Public Library Board of Trustees. He is a past library board member and has been involved in First Presbyterian Church, Hastings Young Professionals and the Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce.
“I really feel like what I can bring to the table from a council perspective is being connected with a wide variety of community organizations, community groups and community members,” he said.
Fong was one of the council members who served on the hiring committee that selected Shawn Metcalf to be the next Hastings city administrator.
Fong also has been involved in the hiring process for a couple different Hastings College presidents, library director Amy Dissmeyer and First Presbyterian Church senior pastor the Rev. Greg Allen-Pickett.
“I do feel like being connected to lots of different types of people, organizations and groups within the community has been really valuable for me as a council member,” Fong said.
He is optimistic about Hastings’ future.
“I really do think there are lots of great things we can look forward to with both the comprehensive plan process, some of our new city leadership, and I do think our community is ready for some leadership, growth and development for the future,” he said.
W hen she went in for her regular screening for breast cancer, Carissa Uhrmacher didn’t expect something abnormal to show up on her results.
“I went in for just a regular mammogram and didn’t think too much about it because I’d had mammograms starting at 40,” said Uhrmacher, of rural Hastings
Following her mammogram, she was called back in for a needle biopsy. A week later, on Sept. 28, 2021, at the age of 47, Uhrmacher was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Uhrmacher had no prior medical issues that might suggest something was wrong, nor did she have any family history of breast cancer, but she knew how important the screenings were.
“I had a grandmother with lymphoma but not breast cancer, and a grandmother with a different kind of cancer — colon cancer — so I guess I knew that screenings were really important,” she said. “It’s just something that I felt like I should continue to do.”
“Early detection was very important for my breast cancer journey,” Uhrmacher said, adding that when they first found the cancer it was small, but it grew rapidly and eventually moved into her chest wall and lymph nodes.
Uhrmacher stressed the importance of getting a mammogram, for those who are of age to get one, and especially for those who have a family history of cancer.
“I think that’s really important on early detection,” she added.
The National Breast Cancer Foundation suggests women 40 and older should have a mammogram every one or two years, while women who are younger than 40 and have risk factors for breast cancer should talk to their health provider about when and how often they should get a mammogram.
For many people, getting a mammogram can be scary, but Uhrmacher says it’s important for people not to assume they will know how the mammogram will feel or what it will be like, because it’s a simple process.
Uhrmacher gave an example of a friend who had a history of cancer in her family but was afraid of having mammogram screening.
“She told me right after (my) diagnosis that she had scheduled hers and she went in and got hers and then she said, ‘Of course that was so easy. Why did I wait?’ I thought it was great that she’d gone in and done that and it was good for her.”
According to the American Cancer Society, early detection, including monthly breast self-exams and scheduling regular breast exams and mammograms, leads to a higher survival rate.
Self-examinations for women and men should be done on a monthly basis and, when doing so, they should look for anything that feels abnormal on their breast/chest, such as a lump, tenderness, thickening or any other changes. Should a person find a lump, the NBCF suggests making an appointment with a medical provider and not to panic, because eight out of 10 lumps aren’t cancerous.
Although monthly self-examinations are necessary and can be helpful in early detection, the NCBF Foundation states “mammography can detect tumors before they can be felt, so screening is key for early detection.”
Uhrmacher’s journey was anything but a straight shot, especially with the cancer growing as fast as it was, but she wasn’t alone in her journey.
“I think the support really helped me all the way along the process,” she said. Everyone from her family, friends, church congregation, colleagues, and the teams at Mary Lanning and the Morrison Cancer Center in Hastings were there to support her from the start.
“You just take one day … my husband was very good about one day at a time and one decision at a time. Don’t think too far ahead, and just go with it. My family was supportive with humor and just being there,” she said.
One year later, after eight chemo rounds over 16 weeks and 20 radiation treatments, Urmacher shared some good news: the results of her recent yearly mammogram came back as clear.
To listen to Uhrmacher talk about the importance of breast cancer screening, visit the South Heartland District Health Department website, southheartlandhealth.ne.gov. To learn more about breast cancer screening, or to find out if you are eligible for assistance to cover the cost of screening, residents of Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster Counties may visit the website or contact SHDHD at 402-462-6211.
Roger Harper has been apolitical most of his life and assumed other people who ran for political office did so in the interest of citizens at large.
He said it has appeared to him in recent years selfless service isn’t always the case for elected officials.
Harper, 82, is challenging incumbent Matt Fong for the Fourth Ward seat on the Hastings City Council.
Harper is retired from a career working with and serving as an administrator for programs focused on mentally disabled individuals.
“I’d like to bring my experience to the council, particularly in the area of public information,” he said.
He said he hopes to enhance communication between the council and public.
Much of what goes on in a council meeting has to do with resolutions — “stuff that is not very communicative with the public,” he said.
Harper grew up Hastings, graduating from Hastings High School and then Hastings College where he earned a bachelor of arts degree. He also has a master’s degree in counseling from the University of Northern Colorado.
Harper owns rental properties in Hastings. He said his experience could be an asset in helping address the city’s housing needs.
“There’s a whole lot of things that come to play in my decision to run for council, not the least of which is I have the time and the energy and the interest to represent the people,” he said.
He and his wife, Arlene, have four children and 12 grandchildren.
He said the city exploring options of moving city operations out of the City Building at 220 N. Hastings Ave., which had safety concerns; the City Council’s decision to demolish the 16th Street viaduct; and the Parks and Recreation Department’s decision to raze the former restroom and warming station at Heartwell Park — all of which he disagreed with — are reasons why he chose to run for public office.
He said he also thinks the city requires too long of a notice for a citizen to appear on a Hastings City Council agenda and speak before the council. According to the city’s request for public comment on council agenda policy, citizens wishing to address the council during the public comments item on the agenda must contact the city clerk no later than seven days prior to the meeting and will be given up to five minutes to speak.
“Those are the things that drove me into the political arena,” Harper said.
Hastings has been Harper’s home for most of his life.
“I’ve lived in cities, and I don’t care for that,” he said. “I like the peacefulness of a smaller town, the ability to get around, and friendships I’ve acquired over my lifetime having graduated from Hastings High and Hastings College. I’ve got deep roots here.”
Since running, Harper has attended city meetings when possible, including one of the city’s four comprehensive plan town hall meetings, all in an effort to educate himself.
“I think if I’m going to be running for city office, I should probably attend meetings like that,” he said.
Adams Central voters will decide between three incumbents and one challenger for the district’s school board in the Nov. 8 general election.
Current school board members Greg Mucklow, David Johnson and Tim O’Dey are seeking re-election. Newcomer Derek Uhrmacher is hoping to join the board for his first term of office.
Voters will select three of the four candidates to serve for the next four years. Continuing members not up for re-election this year are Janice Niemeyer, Chad Trausch and Chris Wahlmeier.
Greg Mucklow of Hastings is a licensed alcohol and drug counselor with Mucklow Counseling Services. He works with older teenagers and adults struggling with addiction.
He and his wife, Shauna, have two children, ages 17 and 13.
Mucklow originally decided to join the board after working with the district on the bond issue for the one-site elementary school. Through that process, he learned more about the school and wanted to continue helping as a board member.
“Over the past four years, we’ve had quite a few challenges with the pandemic and everything else going on,” he said. “We’ve also made a lot of progress in building projects and educational things like becoming a High Reliability School. I’d like to continue that.”
With growing inflation and property assessment increases, Muckow said, money is on people’s minds. He believes the board attempts to be fiscally responsible with taxpayer funds.
“We need to be as responsible as we can with taxpayers’ dollars,” he said. “There’s always that balance of what the school needs and what the school wants.”
David Johnson of Hastings is the administrator for Pediatric Dental Specialists of Greater Nebraska. He and his wife, Kristen, have four children: a 31-year-old daughter and 20-year-old triplets.
Johnson initially decided to run for the board eight years ago to help improve the facilities and educational experience for the district’s grade school students.
“Since then, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to continue serving the patrons of the district and working alongside the rest of the AC board as we continually look at ways to sustain and improve the experience for students,” he said. “I am very proud of Adams Central and its rich history and enjoy serving its patrons, staff, students and families.”
Johnson describes himself as a good listener, problem solver and communicator, as well as an optimistic person. He said that even in difficult times or challenging situations, it’s always important to maintain a positive and optimistic manner.
He hopes to remain on the board to continue assisting the district.
“We need to continue to ensure a safe environment for our students while providing a well-rounded education and activity experience,” he said. “We also need to remain fiscally responsible while investing in our near-term and long-term future.”
Tim O’Dey of Hastings is a strategic initiatives engineer at Royal Engineered Composites in Minden. He and his wife, Pam, have five children, ages 33, 22, 20, 18 and 16.
Having lived in the district and attended Adams Central himself, O’Dey wanted an opportunity to get involved with Adams Central at the board level while his children were going through the system.
“Providing a quality education to the kids of our district is important to both their future and to the future of our community and society,” he said.
O’Dey said he brings a calm demeanor and an analytical approach toward problem solving to the board. He believes his knowledge of the history of Adams Central and understanding of the culture of the community provide a good perspective on ways the school should position itself to continue providing a quality education going into the future.
“The facilities, opportunities and the education that we provide our students is really remarkable,” he said. “It is a product of the work and vision of past and current Adams Central boards and administrations coupled with support from the community. I look forward to the opportunity to continue to be a part of building on the strong foundation that exists with the Adams Central school district as it moves into the future.”
Derek Uhrmacher of Ayr is a farmer on his family’s land. He and his wife, Stephanie, have two children living at home, ages 9 and 3.
Uhrmacher decided to enter the race to bring an outside opinion to the board.
“As a parent, I wanted to have a little more say on what’s going on in the school,” he said. “I wanted to be a voice for other parents.”
He said parents have to be willing to step up and take action to serve in groups like the school board if they want input on how things are done.
While he doesn’t have any specific complaints about the school, Uhrmacher feels a new voice on the board could be beneficial.
“I love this school and love this district,” he said. “I don’t want to see anything change about it.”