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Photos: Thoms named Professional Woman of the Year

Emily Thoms of Ekblad Excavating has been named the 2018 Business Woman of the Year. The honor was presented Wednesday, April 25, during the Women's Leadership Event in Red Wing. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 7
Reba Brommer receives her nomination certificate for Business Woman of the Year on April 25, 2018. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 7
Emily Thoms poses with Julie Klecker, respectively the 2018 and 2017 recipients of the Business Woman of the Year Award. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 7
Stef Binner receives her nomination certificate for Business Woman of the Year on April 25, 2018. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 7
Emily Thoms receives her nomination certificate for Business Woman of the Year on April 25, 2018. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia5 / 7
Tami Connelly receives her nomination certificate for Business Woman of the Year on April 25, 2018. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia6 / 7
Jeni Wentz receives her nomination certificate for Business Woman of the Year on April 25, 2018. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia7 / 7

Emily Thoms began working at Ekblad Excavating when her grandfather Stuart Ekblad needed some help with the bookkeeping. She offered to step in to modernize the system and now, two years later, Thoms is still on the job.

Today this former veterinary assistant is more than just an office assistant for her family's business. You'll regularly find her out in the dirt operating heavy machinery or out in a truck plowing snow in the winter. She's more than proven herself as an integral member of the team, and on Wednesday, April 23, Thoms was named Business Woman of the Year at the 2018 Women's Leadership Event.

"I would describe Emily as a team player," said Grant Ekblad, her father, in his nomination letter. "Not only does she keep our team together and on task, she also joins in to do everything and anything all our employees (which are all male) are asked to do as well."

Ekblad Excavating employees six part-time employees and just two full-time staff members, Thoms and her father.

"My grandpa always said, 'Don't let anybody tell you you can't do it just because you're a girl,'" Thoms said. "And half the time I can outdo the guys in the field, and so I am very proud of that, that I was raised that way."

Thoms is also a wife and a mother of three children. Grant's nomination letter noted said she directs Sunday school programming at her church, volunteers and works part time at another business.

Thoms was visibly emotional, grateful and stunned by her win. Grandmother Myrna Huppert was there to share her success and offer many hugs of congratulations and support. 

"I'm very thankful for everything," Thoms said Thursday. "I'm still shocked I won. I feel very humbled for what I have and very thankful for all the opportunities I was given."

Six women were nominated for the honor and a panel of judges conducted a blind review of the applicants' nomination letters, then submitted a ranking of first and second choices for the award. Thoms emerged from a group of many remarkable women business owners, staff and professionals, judges determined. Other nominees included Jeni Wentz of Wentz Accounting, Reba Brommer of Xcel Energy, Stef Binner Underground Boxing and S&S Accounting, Heidi McCormick of Merchant's Bank and Tami Connelly of CARE Clinic.

Thoms will have an opportunity to deliver a thank you speech at next year's gala. Her successor, Julie Klecker of RiverTown Multimedia, delivered her thank you address at this year's event, as is tradition.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Thoms's grandmother in attendance at the event.