Serving the citizens of Koochiching County and the cities of Bigfalls, International Falls, Littlefork, Northome, Ranier and surrounding region.
Serving the citizens of Koochiching County and the cities of Bigfalls, International Falls, Littlefork, Northome, Ranier and surrounding region.


What are you up to?

The Voyage Forward initiative is an effort to ensure a successful future for our community. We believe the only way we can get there is by all agreeing on where we are going, a destiny, and working together to get there. We are trying to identify a shared vision or destiny by listening carefully to all our community members. We don’t have all the answers. The “stewards” are folks asked to start the conversations about “What do we want to be in 1, 5, or 10 years?

When did this start?

The Voyage Forward effort is the outcome of the Economic Response Team created in May 2013. Prior to the Community “Call to Action”, three teams had been working behind the scenes to move our community forward. Since the launch of the Voyage Forward initiative in September, three additional teams have been formed to further the effort and engage the community through the Stewardship initiative.

What is the motivation for the Voyage Forward Initiative?

There is a desire to create a brighter future for all our community members. We believe the best days of our community are ahead of us, but we can only get there if we all get on the same page and we figure out how to work together.

What is a Steward?

Stewards are ordinary people. People from all walks of life and who care deeply about the community. Stewards are leaders who cross boundaries, take an integrated approach and build coalitions for action. They have 360-degree vision, recognizing the interdependencies between the economy, the environment and social equity. Stewards operate at the center of tough issues, not on the edges. They are risk takers. They are passionate and energetic. They are people of vision.

Who are the Stewards involved in Voyage Forward?

The Stewards are all members of the original Economic Response Team (ERT) created in 2013 in response to a major layoff.   The ERT is sponsored by the County  Board and the City of International falls with leadership provided by Wade Pavleck Bob Anderson, Rob Ecklund, and Pete Kalar. As you can see from the table below, the “ERT” has representation from all sectors of the community, reaches throughout the county, and has evolved into five separate teams.

If you are interested in becoming a Steward, please contact us at

Diane Adams
E.L. (Andy) Anderson
Tim Anderson
Kay Arnold
Andy Barnhart
Julie Bartkowski
Jay Bartkowski
Chris Bigler
Jen Bigler
Sharon Bilben
Tyler Borgen
Bob Christianson
Gary Coran
Tom Dougherty
Harley Droba
Jared Echternach
Paul Eklund
Dave Elhard
Jean Evans
Barb Fisher

Lindsay Frank
Sheril Gautreaux
Jackie Glowack
Travis Glowasky
Kevin Grover
Ashley Hall
Cynthia Jaksa
Eric Johnson
Sandi Keeney
Marta Lindemanis
Lori Lyman
Shawn Mason
Jenn McKelvey
Myrna Meadows
Ward Merrill
Linda Merrill
Kate Miller
Lynn Naeckel
Sue Natysin
Dan Odegaard

Soren Olesen
Pam Oveson
Jordan Pierson
Tami Renollet
Scott Riley
Gail Rognerud
Nancy Rognerud
Ted Saxton
Trina Schaak
Joe Schwartz
Jason Sjoblom
Doug SKrief
Jerry Struss
Brenda Sueker
Mark Sueker
Shane Talley
Betsy Ward
Mike Wellcome
Faye Whitbeck
Jim Yount

What are the Stewards doing?

They have been busy working in the background to design a method to engage as many community members as possible. We have created six teams to most our community forward on this Journey to Success. Their roles are:

Business Development and Retention Team

To address the immediate needs of existing business and entrepreneurs to retain and create job opportunities.The Business Team is chaired by Pete Schultz and Jenny Herman.

Worker Retention and Assistance Team

To connect people in need with available resources and support such services as counseling, training, education, and employment opportunities. This effort is led by Tammy Riley and Sheila DeMenge.

Buzz Team

The Buzz team, led by Jason Sjoblom and Harley Droba, is charged with increasing the profile & public excitement about Voyage Forward.

Asset Team

Sue Natysin and Mike Wellcome are leading the Asset Team in understanding our community, its assets and determining what differentiates us as a great place to live.

Public Engagement Team

Public Engagement is being led by Ward Merrill and Jim Yount. They are charged with asking community members questions about what’s important to residents and businesses that live and work here and what our future destiny should look like. This engagement process will lead into a major community visioning event.

What are those Four Questions?

The Four Questions will help the Engagement Team identify those issues that are most important to our community. It’s the first step in our engagement process for YOU to tell us what is important to YOU!

  • What do you like most about living in ___________________ (city)?
  • Why is this your community of choice?
  • What do you like most about living in the Koochiching County area?
  • What don’t you want to lose as the Koochiching County area changes over time?
  • If you were in charge, what would you do to improve the Koochiching County area?

How do I contact Voyage Forward?

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Join us and help create our own future!