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Perham grad Emily Dreyer called 'extreme go-getter'

Dreyer began working as the Community Education/Administrative Services Coordinator for the Perham-Dent School District in October 2015. Submitted photo1 / 4
Emily Dreyer (formerly Rutten), with her husband Michael and their Brittany Spaniel, Mootsie. The two were wed this past July at their home in Ottertail. Emily, who was born and raised in Perham and still has many relatives in the area, said family is very important to her. Submitted photo2 / 4
Dreyer’s entrepreneurial drive and creativity are displayed in Birch Barn, a business endeavor she began with her mom, Peggy Rutten. She makes custom orders of signs made from reclaimed wood. It’s currently something she does “on the side,” she said, but one of her goals for the near future is to do more with the business. Submitted photo3 / 4
Emily Dreyer has been instrumental in dusting off Perham's Community Education offerings over the past year, helping to turn what was a bare-bones program into a lively and diverse community asset. Marie Johnson/FOCUS4 / 4

Emily Dreyer is just one of six women featured in the 2016 edition of Luminous, which highlights some of the movers and the shakers in Perham. This year, Focus staff looked at young women in leadership roles within the community. Pick up your Luminous in the October 27 edition of the Focus or at locations throughout the area.

It's a good thing Emily Dreyer likes to be busy, because she's had a whirlwind year.

Last fall, the Perham grad and former Associate Director of the Perham Area Chamber of Commerce started a big new gig as Perham-Dent School District's Community Education and Administrative Services Coordinator—a role she's taken on wholeheartedly, transforming the previously bare-bones Community Ed program into a burgeoning and lively community asset.

Meanwhile, she and her mother have continued to run their side business—or "creative endeavor," as Emily describes it—called Birch Barn, repurposing old wood into decorative, custom-made signs.

She's also continued her leadership role with the 549 Family Foundation, a nonprofit that provides financial support for programs, activities and facilities at Perham public schools. Emily is a board member for the foundation, and she provides professional expertise on public relations matters such as social media communications and membership generation.

Oh, and, if that all wasn't enough, she also got married. In July, she went from being Emily Rutten to Emily Dreyer after a casual backyard wedding ceremony with her sweetheart, Michael Dreyer, at their home in rural Ottertail.

Michael is busy, too, as he's currently starting a new business for himself. Emily is helping with that whenever and however she can.

It all makes for a pretty packed schedule, but Emily says she doesn't mind it; she's up for the challenge.

"I'm working basically five part-time jobs, and it gets to be a little much sometimes," she admits in her characteristically open and honest style, adding that, "Time management is so crucial, and I'm terrible at it. But I'm a work in progress."

Those who work most closely with Emily say she's much more than that.

"She's an extreme go-getter," says Erin Anderson, Perham-Dent's activities director. "I like to tell people she gets stuff done. She's one of those people who has the unique ability to be a visionary and also has the follow-through. Her work ethic is really, really good."

Erin's office is right next door to Emily's, and he's witnessed that work ethic time and time again. In her dual roles for the school district, Emily handles a wide range of administrative duties, especially for the activities department. She schedules workers for sporting events, takes care of some bussing, supervises events, oversees registration for activities, and more. But her real 'baby' right now is the Community Ed program.

Before Emily took over the reins of the program about a year ago, there wasn't much to it. Past budget cuts had reduced Community Ed to its most essential elements, namely the annual community musical and driver's ed. There had been a few attempts in recent years to bring more classes back, but nothing ever really took off.

Enter Emily. Within a few months, there were more than 15 new local class offerings through Perham's Community Ed, plus many more available as online courses through Local classes included workforce education workshops, early childhood and youth after-school activities, student enrichment opportunities, adult continued learning courses, and more.

"It seemed like we just added water, and instantly we had a Community Ed program again," said Erin. "It's amazing how quickly Emily got it off the ground, and I think it's just going to keep growing... Expectations have been exceeded in regards to attendance and involvement."

One of the first things Emily did when she took the program on was create a Community Education Advisory Council, a group of Perham area residents, from both within and outside of the school district, to provide input and ideas into the planning, implementation and evaluation of Community Ed programming. It was important to Emily to get a cross-section of the community involved in the leadership of Community Ed.

"Emily is the backbone of the new Community Ed program," says Jill Shipman, who's on the advisory council. "Her creativity, enthusiasm and intelligence has been a huge asset!"

According to Erin, Emily's also been an asset to the school district from a community relations standpoint.

A 2009 Perham High School graduate, Emily has "Jacket Pride," Erin says, which helps make her "a great advocate" for the schools and community. She also "does a tremendous job with working with students and their families."

In addition, Emily has "brought some real tech-savvy to the position," Erin adds, helping to improve the school district website's functionality and design. She worked with Arvig and the district's tech team to create a sleek new website for Community Ed, and also helped revamp individual school sites to make them all share a similar look and to compliment each other, like a big happy "family of websites," Erin explains.

'I love the Perham community'

Born and raised in Perham by her parents, Chris and Peggy Rutten, Emily left town for a few years after graduation to attend the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, where she studied marketing and entrepreneurial management.

After college, she returned home to be near her family, and to get back to the town she loves.

"I love the Perham community," she says. "It's the only thing I know. I like that everyone's very family-oriented and community-minded... Everyone's very genuine. And it's amazing to see how generous people can be with their time and talents. And, you can't beat the lakes!"

For awhile, she worked in sales at Scheels in Fargo, N.D., and then as a travel coordinator for Essentia Health, while job hunting for something more permanent. After about a year of hoping and searching, her parents alerted her to a job opening at the Perham Area Chamber of Commerce. She didn't hesitate to apply.

"I was destined to get that job; it was a perfect fit," she says. "It got me back into the community. I made connections and learned about the different resources here. That's all helped me do this job (at the school district) better."

After about a year at the Chamber, Emily learned of the opening at the school district. Again, she knew right away that she wanted the job. She went through the interview process, and was hired.

A year into it, she says, "This has been a really good fit for all of my interests. I have a passion for my work and what I'm doing... I'm glad I'm in a position where I can make a difference."

She likes that her efforts benefit children, she says, and "it's always fun to see people learning, getting excited that they're trying something new. I also like how things are changing, with the addition of more technology all the time, and the changes in the district."

With all the school construction projects on the plate in Perham-Dent, Emily says it's an exciting time to be working for the district. She thinks the new high school, in particular, will "spur some interesting changes," and she appreciates that she's gotten to offer some input into what will eventually become her new office.

'Big picture thinker'

At home, Emily likes to hang out with her husband, Michael, and their Brittany Spaniel, Mootsie. They live in a house in Ottertail that Michael purchased from his grandparents shortly before he and Emily started dating—a family farm where generations of the Dreyer family have grown up, and where Emily and Michael plan to raise their children, as well.

Their home is near a lake and they like to spend a lot of their time on the water in the summers. Emily also likes to play volleyball, experiment in the kitchen (she says her mom—who's a great cook—is her inspiration), paint and decorate signs for her Birch Barn customers, and spend as much time as possible with family. She has three siblings: Isaac, who's still in the area and works at Kit Masters; Maria, a freshman at North Dakota State University; and Sam, an accountant in San Diego.

Emily describes her husband, who also grew up in the Perham area, as "a keeper."

"I had a crush on him since eighth grade," she divulges with a smile. "I was younger than him, but I saw him and was like, 'Dibs on that guy!' Ten years later, we were married."

Although her crush started a decade ago, it wasn't until recently, in June of 2014, that the pair got together. They share some mutual friends, and started bumping into each other around town, she says. Eventually they swapped phone numbers, and then went out on a real date, and the rest is history.

Looking back on the past year or so, and then looking ahead to what might come next, Emily says she's not exactly sure what the future will hold for her. Her immediate goal for herself, she laughs, is simply "to survive"—to continue to balance her responsibilities at work and at home, and hopefully keep having some fun in the process.

She knows she wants to continue to take Community Ed to the next level. For one thing, she'd like to keep growing and expanding the program, offering a larger number of courses on a more diverse array of subjects.

"The more, the merrier," is her philosophy when it comes to course offerings. People will approach her with ideas for a class, or wanting to teach a class, she says, and "I'll accept just about anything, to gauge community interest. I'm one of those people who always wants to keep learning, so it's fun to see what people are interested in and then run with it. There are no hard and fast rules about (a proposed course) having to fall within any parameters—any learning experience will do."

A "big picture thinker," as her co-worker Erin Anderson describes her, Emily would also like to start marketing Community Ed's programming alongside other educational offerings in Perham. Other nonprofit organizations in town, such as the Perham Area Community Center and Perham Health, provide free educational opportunities to local residents all the time, Emily explains: "It would be cost effective and cooperative" to partner with them to get the word out about "all the great things that are going on in Perham, all the time."

Beyond that, "the sky's really the limit" when it comes to long-term life plans, she says. She might decide to "focus on my career more" or she might "stay home with a bunch of babies."

"I never really thought that I would be where I am right now," she admits, "so it's hard to imagine what possibilities are out there for the future."

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Detroit Lakes Tribune in November 2017 after several years of writing and editing at the Perham Focus. She lives in rural Frazee with her husband, Dan, their young son and daughter, and their yellow Lab.

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