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stark county
spirit of excellence award

The Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award recognizes the contributions of an individual or group who has demonstrated Leadership, Customer Service, Innovation, Stewardship, or Good Samaritan/Random Acts of Kindness actions within Stark County, North Dakota.

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Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award
Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award


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March 2024

Congratulations to Lee O'Brien, a remarkable 16-year-old from South Heart, on being honored with the Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award! As our youngest recipient, Lee stood out among 43 nominated candidates.

On April 29th, 2023, Lee was helping his grandpa sort pairs on his ranch south of Belfield, ND, when his grandpa had a four-wheeler accident while bringing in a calf. He saw that his grandpa was injured and couldn’t get him up, so Lee drove his four-wheeler as fast as he could back to the house for help. Taking a breath, he calmly informed his grandma that grandpa was in an accident, and they needed to go get him. As they dashed to the vehicle, he told her, "Grandma, you need your cell phone because we need to call an ambulance!" They got him up and directed emergency services to the scene.

Grandpa, being a typical rancher, was only worried about the work they hadn’t finished and feeding all the cows. Lee reassured him he would take care of it all. Before additional family or help could get to the ranch, Lee was already in the tractor feeding cows, penning pairs, and making sure all animals could get to water. It was the height of calving.

Over the next couple of days, he worked without complaint and minimal direction until 10 at night, many nights, making sure the ranch was taken care of. He tagged calves, loaded trailers, fed, and still did not miss any of his school classes.

His grandpa was in the hospital for eight days, and Lee helped in any way he could. On his one afternoon off, he went to town and helped his great-grandmother with yard work, too.

Congratulations, Lee! It was an honor to celebrate you!

View the March 2024 donors.

Lee O'Brien
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November 2023

Chad and Rhonda Kraenzel have both demonstrated so many qualities that exemplify a spirit of EXCELLENCE.

Rhonda was a teacher in the Dickinson Public School System for twenty plus years and has dedicated her life to leading youth in a positive direction. After retiring from teaching, she found her way back into the school system three years ago as the main promoter of reading in our community. Though her job is Reading Liaison, most kids around Dickinson know her as Rhinestone Rhonda. She has made reading cool again and spends her summer days putting on "Reading Rodeos" for kids which have been an absolute hit! I could go on and on about how she won Teacher of the Year and how big of an impact she made as a teacher, but I think getting kids into reading again and bringing families together over her Reading Rodeos is one of her most amazing accomplishments.

Chad has always been an under-the-radar leader. He is not the loudest voice in the room, but he has always been a person to step up and help when there is a need. When Chad's dad passed away in 2005, he stepped up and ran their family business, Keith Signs, without any prior business experience. In late 2022, Chad purchased the business and rebranded it as Vizion Signs. His goal is to make an impact on Dickinson that goes beyond the sign industry. Along with being a business leader in Dickinson, he also has been a Break Forth Bible Church worship leader for the past twenty plus years. His dedication is unmatched.

Rhonda and Chad together have supported each other wholeheartedly when pursuing their dreams. They are a team through and through and the impact on their community would have never been possible without one another.

View the November 2023 donors.

Chad and Rhoda Kraenzel
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August 2023

Congratulations to Irene Schafer! She has been honored with the Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award!

Irene is 93 years old and is still on every board or committee that moves this community forward. She is active on a Chamber Committee and with Rotary’s fundraising. The Dickinson Area Home Builders is fortunate to have Irene on its Board of Directors, a committee member for the Home Builders Show, the golf event, and the Christmas Party.

She is a board member of the DSU Heritage Foundation, a member of API, and an affiliate member of the Badlands Board of Realtors. She is a member of the Republican party.

Irene was a founder, along with Shirley Dukart, of the Power of 100 Women which has grown to a membership of 250 members. These members have given more than $600,000 to 501(c)(3) Charities. She has been the recipient of the Golden Hawk award from Dickinson State University for her contributions. She was the Parade Marshall in the Roughrider Parade in 2020.

She volunteers and works in many of these organizations. Irene sponsors many events and takes guests to get them involved.

Congratulations, Irene! It was an honor to celebrate you!

View the August 2023 donors.

Irene Schafer
Joe Wanner
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May 2023

It is with great privilege that we announce Joe Wanner of Gladstone has received the Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award.

Joe has served the Stark County community in several ways. He served as the Fire Chief of the Gladstone Consolidated Fire Department for 32 years and currently serves on the Gladstone Fire Department's Board of Directors.

Through his work with the fire department, he has brought many trainings and educational opportunities to Emergency Medical Service members in Stark County and surrounding areas. After the attacks of 9/11, Joe accepted a position at the Southwestern District Health Unit as the Emergency Preparedness and Response Coordinator. Because of this position, he has trained many healthcare workers and Emergency Medical Service providers in isolation and decontamination procedures for potential deadly biologic weapons such as Ebola, SARS, Anthrax, and Smallpox.

He was at the forefront of pandemic training and response when Covid-19 hit the state of ND and has dedicated many long hours to keeping western ND safe and healthy. Joe has also served on the Board of Directors for the Southwest District Homeless Coalition and has found dozens of residents a warm place to sleep.

Joe is the definition of a community service member. Congratulations, Joe. Well-deserved!

View the May 2023 donors.

Jessica Clifton
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February 2023

Congratulations to Veteran Jessica Clifton, Stark County Veterans Service Officer. She has been awarded the Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award!

Jessica has dedicated over 10 years to the Veterans in our county, as well as many other counties throughout our state, to ensure the Veterans are cared for and aware of their earned benefits through their service to our country.

Jessica is a leading example of Stewardship by conducting, managing, supervising, and carefully handling the Veterans with love and compassion. She delivers food, household goods, and any request the Veterans may have. Jessica goes upon and above her job duties to care for our Veterans. She takes time out of her weekends to sit with Veterans at the Hospital and Nursing homes to make sure they are not alone, and they know that they are not forgotten. Jessica also helps move Veterans into their homes and delivers food to them on the weekends.

Jessica's kindness, compassion and heart of gold is exactly what our Veterans need. She calls each Veteran her friend, it’s not just a job to her but her way of life. Her dedication is endless and her passion is in her soul.

Congratulations, Jessica, on your well-deserved honor! We thank you for your service.

View the February 2023 donors.

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November 2022

Congratulations to Audrey Kuntz of Richardton! She has been presented with the Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award!

Audrey has dedicated a large portion of her time in becoming an EMT to serve her community that she loves. She also became a teacher to follow her passion of teaching children.

While doing all these things she also created Richardton-Taylor Ambulances Safety Tuesday program that focuses on teaching children how to be prepared not scared. She has donated her time and resources in making sure the program is not only informative but also includes other agencies such as fire, law enforcement, and even game wardens. These agencies not only inform the kids but make sure they know that these are agencies and people the kids can trust.

Audrey pours her soul into being there for her community and is a wonderful role model and steward to the town of Richardton and its surrounding areas.

Congratulations, Audrey, on this well-deserved honor!

View the November 2022 donors.

Audrey Kuntz
Brian Benesh
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August 2022

It is with great honor that we announce Brian Benesh of Dickinson has been awarded the Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award.

Vietnam Veteran, Brian Benesh, is a man of duty, conviction, honor, and selflessness. For the past 27 years, Brian has taken on the task of placing an individual flag at every Veteran’s gravestone for Memorial Day. In a two-day span leading up to Memorial Day weekend, nearly 1,000 flags decorate the cemeteries throughout Dickinson. Brian has had the help of a few fellow Veterans over the years, all of whom take on this task with the upmost respect to honor every Veteran laid to rest.

Brian has also led the Veterans Day program in Dickinson for over 18 years, up until last year, as he felt it was his duty to pay tribute to all who have served, especially our POW/MIA. In addition, Brian spearheaded a program called “Adopt a Vet”, encouraging community members to an extra flower to the cemetery for Memorial Day, locate a Veteran’s grave that does not have flowers, and place it there, to assure no Veteran is ever forgotten. Brian has lived a life of giving to others who have given their life for our country’s freedoms.

Congratulations, Brian! We thank you for your service.

View the August 2022 donors.

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May 2022

Congratulations to Colleen Rodakowski with Elder Care and Dickinson Public Transit. She has been presented with the Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award.

As the Executive Director of Elder Care in Dickinson, she has been instrumental to the success of Elder Care’s mission of giving the elderly the option of remaining in their own homes and helping them maintain a sense of independence and a better quality of life by providing nutrition and transit services.

By striving for safety and customer excellence among her employees, her guidance and leadership has led Dickinson Public Transit to being awarded the Best of the Western Edge Award for cab companies two years in a row.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, she has worked tirelessly to ensure that the services provided to our community by Elder Care have continued to be provided safely every day. Without our services, many elderly would be left without nutritious meals and many community members would lose their source of reliable transportation.

She has worked hard to provide safe working conditions for her employees, as well as training her staff to ensure the safety and health of our customers and coworkers.

Her leadership is second to none and her commitment to the organization and the community is felt deeply by those who work for her and know her. 

Congratulations, Colleen!

View the May 2022 donors.

Colleen Rodakowski
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February 2022

It is with great privilege that we announce Mike Kelley is the latest recipient of the Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award.

Mike was recognized for his Good Samaritan/Random Acts of Kindness. His incredible service with McDonald's, the Ronald McDonald House Charities, and the Cabin Fever Benefit made him an excellent candidate for the award.

If you go in McDonald's in Dickinson at any given time, especially during the busy lunch rush or when a bus rolls in, you can find Mike doing many different positions throughout the business. It is not uncommon to see him working the deep fryer or delivering food for the mobile order section. Throughout all this he is always incredibly thankful for his team. He often comes to the front counter after a busy lunch hour and yells out, "Excellent work everyone! Thank you!" to his team.

Mike deserves particular credit for is his giving. He is incredibly generous with his business. He has donated to countless events, activities, Eagle Scout Projects, and individuals throughout our community. Mike is also extremely generous with the Ronald McDonald House charities and Cabin Fever benefit in the area.

Congratulations, Mike!

View the February 2022 donors.

Mike Kelley
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December 2021

Kristin Seaks has been awarded the Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award. She has a true heart for service and is a very deserving award recipient.

Kristin Seaks recognized the need for the Dickinson BackPack Program in our area. She not only was instrumental in getting the program started, but she also has served as the volunteer director for the program since its inception in 2013. Since the start of the program, tens of thousands of food packs have been given to youth in need in Stark County.

In addition to the Dickinson BackPack Program, Kristin also worked with other Dickinson Public School social workers to form the DPS Community Closet 4 years ago which provides school supplies, clothes, food, and other needed items to students of Dickinson Public Schools.

Ten years ago, Kristin Seaks had an idea and started a program called 25 Days of Giving, which encourages families to adopt the annual tradition of doing an act of service or making a donation to a charitable organization each day during the first twenty-five days of December. Many families have joined this tradition and do many activities together. In 2020, service activities included delivering 30 ham and turkey meal baskets to Stark County families in need as well as outdoor caroling at area nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Congratulations, Kristin!

View the December 2021 donors.

Kristin Seaks
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October 2021

It is with distinct honor and privilege that we announce Art Wanner, a Dickinson Veteran, has been presented with the Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award.

Art is a charter member and Vice President of the Stark County Veterans Memorial Association, overseeing the planning, fundraising, and completion of the memorial. Art is the leader of American Legion Post 3 Honor Guard, thus performing military rites at Veterans funerals. He supervises the Legion's food pantry for local Veterans in need. Art has also nominated Veterans for ND Honor Flights to Washington, DC.

He is actively involved in recognizing our Veterans for the Quilts of Valor program in Southwest North Dakota. Art also belongs to other Veteran organizations, as well as church and civic organizations. He is a soft spoken, kind, and humble man.

Congratulations, Art Wanner! We thank you for your service to your country, to Veterans, and to Stark County. The impact that Art has made on Stark County and beyond has been significant and will carry on for many years to come.

View the October 2021 donors.

Art Wanner
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August 2021

Ruthie Johnson of Belfield, ND has been honored as the August 2021 recipient of the Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award.

Ruthie has given tirelessly of her time and talents for many years on her own and through numerous volunteer organizations and activities. She is positive, giving, and has touched the lives of so many within our county and beyond. 

Congratulations, Ruthie, on your well-deserved award!

View the August 2021 donors.

Ruthie Johnson
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June 2021

17-year old Dickinson, ND resident, Anika Sayler is the June recipient of the Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award. She is a remarkable and humble young lady who epitomizes what this award program represents.

A real hero, Anika performed CPR to save a man's life after a rollover accident. Her bravery and selflessness did not go unnoticed by the Stark County Mayors, as they selected her as June's award recipient out of 34 submitted nominations.

Congratulations, Anika! You will continue to do amazing things. YOU are truly a Spirit of Excellence!

View the June 2021 donors.

Anika Sayler
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April 2021

We are pleased to announce Jayne Ketterling, a Dickinson, ND resident, as the incredible April recipient of the Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award!

Within two days, she arranged a pre-Christmas food drive in 2020. In less than a week, she was able to collect over 11,000 pounds of food, toiletries, cash, and gift cards just in time for Christmas for the AMEN Food Pantry.

Jayne went above and beyond at the most special time of the year to ensure local families had what they needed for an enjoyable Christmas. Congratulations, Jayne!!

View the April 2021 donors.

Jayne Ketterling
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February 2021

It is with great honor that we announce Jack Schaff and Tom Tessier of Belfield, ND as the first recipients of the Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award.


Jack and Tom's heroic actions led to the rescue of a trapped mother and her baby after a rollover accident. Congratulations, Jack and Tom, on being true Spirits of Excellence!!


View the February 2021 donors.

Jack Schaff & Tom Tessier


The Stark County Spirit of Excellence Awards Committee (SCSEAC) values the contributions of all individuals and supports recognition activities. The SCSEAC Awards Program recognizes one outstanding person or group whose performance and actions promote, reinforce, or exemplify the SCSEAC’s mission.


Oversight and Evaluation

  1. The SCSEAC Directors will appoint a SCSEAC Awards Team to evaluate the SCSEAC Awards Program.

  2. The nominations will be provided to the SCSEAC Awards Team in blind format. The SCSEAC Awards Team will review the nominations with all names removed from the nomination form, providing for a fair evaluation process.

  3. The SCSEAC will actively promote nominations of its county-wide award. Methods of solicitation are outlined in the Communication section of the SCSEAC Awards Program.

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To recognize the contributions of an individual or group who has demonstrated Leadership, Customer Service, Innovation, Stewardship, or Good Samaritan/Random Acts of Kindness actions within Stark County, ND.


To be considered for the Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award, an individual or group must make a deliberate, obvious, and valuable contribution through actions, demonstrated by a consistent pattern of behavior, exhibited over time, in one or more of the following service areas:


  • Actively involved in mentorship and development of community members.

  • Led an effective team or organization to achieve results.

  • Actively involved in implementing a new service, evolving an existing service, or leading a business practice through change.

  • Volunteered to take on extra responsibilities.

  • Handled an emergency or unexpected situation in an outstanding manner.

Customer Service

  • Demonstrated a positive attitude, exceptional effort or performance that increased citizen, customer, and/or client satisfaction that benefited the community.

  • Went above and beyond to eliminate barriers for clients by effectively and efficiently communicating, collaborating, and addressing client needs.


  • Developed non-traditional, new ways to do business, marketing, leadership, or other forms of community advancement.

  • Streamlined processes or systems.

  • Developed creative ideas or solutions to problems.



  • Provided selfless service within an organization, business, or community entity.

  • Conducted skillful management that resulted in a successful organization, business, or community entity.

Good Samaritan/Random Acts of Kindness

  • Contributed to a heroic act.

  • Performed a noble act(s) to either help or cheer up a random stranger, for no reason other than to bring joy to another. 

Award Details
Spirit of Excellence Awards are presented bi-yearly to one recipient or group in one of the five service areas listed above. Presentation of an award is dependent on the Awards Team determining that at least one nomination meets the established criteria.

An individual or group cannot nominate himself/herself as an individual or a group.

Nominations of Individuals or Groups
Any individual or group, whose performance and actions promote, reinforce, or exemplify the SCSEAC’s vision and mission can be nominated for a Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award.


Nomination Process

Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award nominations can be made by anyone and must be submitted on behalf of any member or group from Stark County, North Dakota. Nomination forms are available at


The nomination form may be submitted electronically or returned to the SCSEAC Awards Team via the above methods by the identified deadlines. Nominators will be notified of the nomination’s status after the nominations have been reviewed and the award recipient has been selected. Nominees who are not selected to receive a Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award will be considered for up to twelve months, and will be carried over to the following bi-yearly awards.

Award Team
The Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award Team consists of the Mayors of the Stark County communities of Belfield, Dickinson, Gladstone, Richardton, South Heart, and Taylor.

Award Deadlines

Submit electronically at Submission deadlines: March 15 and October 15.

Questions and Award Program Details
Review the Awards program details at or at Call 701-290-1640 with further questions.

The Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award is endorsed by the Stark County Commission, the Stark County Association of Deputies, and by all Mayors in Stark County, ND.

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Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award
Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award
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