Harley Droba currently serves as City Councilor for International Falls and MN State VFW District 8 Commander. In the US Army he worked in satellite communications. At MCI WorldCom, Harley worked in the largest data center in Minnesota and was promoted to Lead Tech in Denver, CO. Harley managed one of the largest fiber optic networks in the US. Harley continues to champion increased broadband, cellular coverage, and technology accessibility in all rural Minnesota. As an applicant for the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband, Harley focused the conversation on the needs of underserved areas and the hospitality industry. Harley also serves as the City Representative on the board of KEDA.
Alysa Hackenmueller aids underserved residents as an Employment and Training Specialist for the Northeast MN Office of Job Training and as an adjunct instructor at Rainy River Community College. She has been a Koochiching County social worker and an eligibility worker. Alysa has a BS in social work and a minor in human relations from St. Cloud State University. Alysa’s active community engagement includes Voyage Forward, the International Falls Economic Development Authority Advisory Board, the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and its Economic Development Committee, the STRIVE mentor and planning committee and Rotary. As a Blandin Community Leadership Program alum, Alysa co-founded and currently chairs the Borderland Young Professionals.
Paul Nevanen has been involved in regional and local economic development since returning to his hometown of International Falls in 1993. He is the Director of the Koochiching Economic Development Authority (KEDA) since 2002. Paul served as Director of the Minnesota Cold Weather Resource Center from 1995-2001: a quasi-state agency created to further develop the low-temperature testing industry in Minnesota. Paul is an alum of the Blandin Leadership program and serves on a number of boards and organizations. He graduated from the University of North Dakota with a B.S. in English education.
Soren Olesen is an industrial technology teacher, head mechanic and bus contractor at Indus School. He is an active volunteer in the townships of northwestern Koochiching County. Soren is the founding chairman of the River Valley Development Associations which operates the community center in Birchdale. He has served for years as a volunteer with the Birchdale Rural Fire Department, the Rainy River Regional Parish UCC board, the Birchdale Area Broadband Initiative, the Rainy River First Responders, the Consolidated Conservation Advisory Committee, the Koochiching Economic Development Authority and as sexton of the Birchdale cemetery. Other community involvements include Voyage Forward, track and field coach, assistant Taekwondo instructor and touring with his family bluegrass band, Sloughgrass.
Ted Saxton is an International Falls native and army vet. His layoff from the Boise paper mill in 2013 led to a personal reinvention and a passionate focus on the community. Ted is a board member at ISD361, Rotary, recreation commision and public library. He is a STRIVE mentor and a cofounder of both Borderland Young Professionals and IFalls Nice. His goal is to make International Falls the best small town in Minnesota for quality of life and happiness.
Hoa Sobczynski has been the business manager of the Backus Community Center since February 2009. Previously she worked as administrator, bookkeeper and development director at St. Thomas School for 11 years. She earned an accounting technician Certificate from Rainy River Community College in 2007, a development certificate in Catholic School Management from Notre Dame in 2000, and an AA degree in electronic technology from Santa Ana Community College, California. Hoa has previous experience as a quality control technician. Hoa also serves as the Backus Community Center Food Service Manager and supervises the center’s Summer Food Service Program. She is a 2010 graduate of the Blandin Community Leadership Program.
Darcy Sullivan is the Director of Koochiching County Community Television and a substitute teacher at ISD 361. She gives private music lessons for young and old on various string instruments. Darcy is a lifelong resident of International Falls and a band member of Couchiching First Nation. Darcy graduated from Falls High School in 1999, received an AA in 2001 from Rainy River Community College and earned a BA in English literature, language and culture from the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 2004. She uses her background to highlight this area’s natural beauty and culture on our area’s only community TV channel.
Jim has a passion for troubleshooting, thinking outside the box, discovering unappreciated opportunities and networking various stakeholders together for their mutual benefit. His bachelor’s degree in human factors engineering is all about adapting technology to people. While earning a master’s in ecological anthropology and a doctorate in land resources, Jim used Blandin-like skills to elicit solutions balancing conservation and development interests in a remote, semi-arid forest in Madagascar. He is president of the board of Icebox Radio Theater and is a founding board member of the Rainy Lake Property Owners Association.