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Eckstrom's turn has come

Julie Eckstrom (center) stands with Christy Rickli of Express Employment Professionals and Mark O’Connor of KWNG after being named the 2014 Professional Woman of the Year. (Republican Eagle photo by Peri Williams)1 / 2
Jessica Miles (right) mingles with the crowd after addressing Red Wing’s annual Professional Women’s Leadership Event at Treasure Island Resort & Casino. (Republican Eagle photo by Anne Jacobson)2 / 2

Julie Eckstrom said she shouldn’t have been at the annual Professional Women’s Leadership Event.

“It wasn’t my turn,” she insisted.

Eckstrom and Lanette Place alternate each year representing First Farmers & Merchants Bank. But Place kept making excuses this year. Eckstrom finally figured out why when she arrived Wednesday at the Treasure Island Event Center and saw her name on the big screen: The bank had nominated her for 2014 Professional Woman of the Year.

The second surprise, she said, was winning the honor.

“It’s a lifetime moment I’ll never forget,” Eckstrom said.

The other nominees were Dee Whipple of Musty-Barnhart Agency, Patty Brown of the Red Wing Area Chamber of Commerce, Julie Peterson of Sargent’s Nursery, Tracy Kirchner of Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical and Cyndi Smith of Edina Realty.

Eckstrom joined the bank in 2003 as a teller. She quickly rose to customer service representative, commercial lending assistant and business banking officer. She works alongside Brett Elford, the bank president.

“Our business portfolio has grown due to Julie’s hard work in setting up deposit accounts, making loans, dealing with the day-to-day issues of the client and documentation preparation,” Elford said in the nomination paper.

Eckstrom also has an outstanding commitment to Red Wing, coworker Lisa MacRae noted in the nomination paper. Eckstrom’s community resume includes chamber ambassador, Downtown Main Street treasurer and, in 2013, steering committee member for the Goodhue County Habitat for Humanity Women Build.

“Julie was an engaged and welcoming team captain who wasn’t afraid to dig in and get her hands dirty — literally,” MacRae and Elford wrote.

Eckstrom said she enjoys her work because she loves people, customers and coworkers alike.

“We do have a family atmosphere out there and I think the customers know that, too.”

Find balance

KSTP-TV 5 news anchor Jessica Miles delivered the keynote. She challenged the women to draw a wheel, create the spokes and then write one thing in each “pie piece” that’s important: family, work, spirituality, personal growth, health, etc.

For the wheel to roll, she said, those things have to balance. If you’re putting too much time into one area — constantly checking work email or never parking the cellphone, for examples — some other portions of the wheel go flat.

“Balance is that feeling of being whole, of being complete,” Miles said.

She peppered her 50-minute talk with anecdotes from her personal life — her children at 4, 2 and 1 — and work.

Through thousands of interviews, she said she’s learned three things about successful people. They handle the priorities, they focus on the positives and they delegate and let go.

“Balance. What it is? Is it realistic?” she asked several times. “For me, balance every day is a work in progress.”

Anne Jacobson

Anne Jacobson has been editor of the Republican Eagle since December 2003. 

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