Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

City resident will be honored at Fair for service

by Lisa Seiser

August 25, 2011

Nancy Russell doesn’t spend much time at her Lake Geneva home. Sometimes, even when her children stop by to visit, she often is on her way out the door, saying, “Bye, I have to go.”

But none of that is done out of selfishness. Actually, for Russell, it is the exact opposite.

The 75-year-old has been giving her time to lead Walworth County into the future. Currently, Russell is the Walworth County Board chairwoman, serves on numerous key committees and volunteers her time with other groups.

For her efforts over the years, Russell, who uses the word “we” much more often than “I” or “me,” will receive one of five Outstanding Senior Citizen Awards at the 2011 Walworth County Fair. She will be honored on Thursday, Sept. 1 on the Park Stage.

“I am really very flattered and humbled,” Russell said of the award. “I have to say there are so many people in Walworth County who give of their time and efforts and talents. There are some very talented people who volunteer for the county and I feel kind of guilty in a way.”

Russell said the county tries to recognize those who volunteer through luncheons and other events, but “in no way can we really recognize all of them.”

“It is amazing the number of hours people put in for all sorts of things,” Russell said.

But, friend and former County Board member Joyce Ketchpaw, who nominated Russell for the honor, said it’s Russell who is amazing.

“I think the world of Nancy,” Ketchpaw said.

Ketchpaw said Russell has put in more time for the county than anyone.

“She’s always there, she’s gone the extra 10,000 miles for Walworth County,” Ketchpaw said. “She has donated her life to the county.”

Russell said she is most proud of her work as the County Board chairwoman and that is her first priority.

“It is an elected position, and I can’t let my constituents down,” she said. “If push comes to shove, I can’t let them down.”

But, her proudest achievement is being elected chair of the County Board.

“That is a completely different role than serving the constituency,” she said. “I try to keep that perspective that I want to run a good meeting and keep it moving and everyone involved. Some are shy and I try to frame it so everyone gets a chance to voice their opinion on the big issues.”

Ketchpaw said it’s Russell’s own decision-making and leadership that sets her apart.

“She’s been willing to make the tough decisions and she always has a good reason,” Ketchpaw said. “She’s not sentimental, she’s practical and that’s what it takes to be a leader. She is very thoughtful and caring.”

“I just really enjoy it,” Russell said of being on the County Board. “When I retired from private industry, I thought I will just do all this traveling and things I wanted to do. For about two years, that was OK. Then I wanted to feel like I was making a difference.”

Ketchpaw, who was first elected to the board in 2002, the same year as Russell, believes her friend has made and continues to make a difference.

“I have a deep respect for her,” Ketchpaw said. “She always has the county as a whole in mind.”

Along with the being the County Board Chairwoman, Russell has a lengthy list of accomplishments and participation. She’s been on the board of directors of the Black Point Historic Preserve, is a member of the Royal Joy Williams Questers, Walworth County Historical Society, Geneva Lake Conservancy and Geneva Lake History Museum.

Through the county, she is the chair of the finance and public works committees, member of the Walworth County Emergency Planning Committee, the Walworth County Highway Safety Committee and the Walworth County Criminal Justice Committee.

Russell admits she often feels guilty about not spending more time with her family. But, they must be OK with her busy schedule. Russell’s son also nominated her for the award.

“I am very grateful for this,” Russell said. “I don’t know what to say. I guess when you enjoy doing something so much, you don’t feel like it’s a sacrifice.”