The Dwight D. Eisenhower Excellence in Public Service Series met in Great Bend for the first time recently, at the suggestion of Eisenhower Series board member Rep. Tory Marie Arnberger (R-Great Bend).
The series is part of the National Excellence in Public Service Series, a group of 20 state organizations that aims to provide a first-class leadership training experience for outstanding women. Another goal is to encourage, mentor and prepare selected women leaders to seek new levels of involvement in government and politics.
The 2020 class of 22 women was invited and 15 members arrived in Great Bend on Friday evening, Nov. 13, for dinner and the opening program, presented by Marisel Walston, president of the Eisenhower Board of Governors. Those who could not travel to Great Bend because of quarantines attended the programs via Zoom.
They topped off the evening with a tour of Great Bend. Stores reopened for the group as the women toured Santas Around the World and Dry Lake Brewing. They shopped on Main Street. Arnberger noted that some personalized Eisenhower Series gifts for the attendees were purchased locally from Identifications.
“This is the first time (the Eisenhower series) has been in Great Bend,” Arnberger said prior to the event. “The downtown stores have really stepped up and are putting on a downtown shopping night for the class and alumni on Friday night.”
Saturday was filled with programs on agriculture, water, state legislation, economic development, the oil industry and even hemp farming – all topics that Barton County is well equipped to address. Speakers included Kevin Mauler, a farmer; Jeff Mauler, COO at Great Bend Co-op; Pat Janssen, a Kinsley farmer who serves on various water boards; Rep. Troy Waymaster (R-Bunker Hill), Brandon Depenbusch, vice president at ILS; Great Bend Community Coordinator and Convention & Visitors Bureau Director Christina Hayes; Great Bend Chamber President/CEO Megan Barfield; Great Bend Economic Development Director Sara Hayden; Chris Smith from Smith Supply; and Justin Blew from KanEquip.
Kristy Blakeslee, owner of local businesses Central Kansas Whitetails, Triple Creek Outfitters and Straub’s Powersports, from the group’s Class of 2013, presented the alumni spotlight. (Allene Owen is another Eisenhower Series alumna from Great Bend. Arnberger was part of the series’ Class of 2018.)
Most of the programs took place at the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce but there was also a field trip to local Case IH dealership KanEquip.
Arnberger noted that the Eisenhower Series (theeisenhowerseries.org) has a selection process that includes an interview. Although its tagline is “Encouraging greater political involvement for Republican Kansas women,” not everyone who joins becomes a political candidate.
“We would love to have more women run for office, but not everyone wants to,” she said. The series also encourages them to get involved in other ways, as staffers, on local boards or as precinct committeewomen, or simply as “great grassroots folks.”
The Class of 2020 is the 15th Eisenhower Series class. More than 300 women have attended.