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Perham Chamber benefit draws emotion with recognitions

Trisha Marzcak/FOCUS Kenny Nelson speaks at the April 14 Perham Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet held at Mulligans. Nelson was inducted into the Chamber's Hall of Fame.

Those who walked away from the Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet may have felt a new sense of inspiration and appreciation for Perham's leaders.

Nick Theroux took the crown this year for the chamber's Leadership Award, while longtime Perham business owner Kenny Nelson was recognized with an induction into the Chamber's Hall of Fame.

Kenny Nelson

Standing in front of a room of chamber members, Kenny Nelson shared his story.

The theme of his speech?

He's been blessed.

"It's been an awfully good ride," he said, reminiscing on his years in the family's businesses.

The ride started in 1965 when he and his father, known as Tuffy, started Tuffy's Pet Food Company.

"Neither one of us really liked pets all that much, but we decided to try that ... and it went well," he said to an amused crowd.

As the KLN Family brand grew to incorporate Barrel O' Fun and Kenny's Candy, Nelson and his family continued the dream.

Having the opportunity to work alongside his family members has proved fulfilling for Nelson. But he said the success could not have been accomplished without the dedicated efforts of those he employs.

"We're where we are because of these people (employees)," he said.

The KLN Family brand employs more than 1,000 people in Perham - and that's the way Nelson likes it.

A Perham native and graduate of Perham High School, Nelson said the town has a special place in his heart.

And when it comes to celebrating the community's success, there's no bigger cheerleader than Nelson. He referred to recent state championships, including boys cross-country, girls gymnastics and boys basketball, as events that reflect the level of excellence and hometown pride in Perham.

"This is fun; this is what it's all about. It's been a really good run for our family," he said.

Approaching 70 years old, Nelson is looking to slow down a bit - but for Nelson, that means showing up at 7 a.m. instead of 6 a.m.

Nick Theroux

Nick Theroux may be considered a transplant in Perham, but he is by no means green to the community.

His list of contributions to Perham in the past seven years stretches beyond the expected. He served as the Perham Chamber of Commerce director in 2005 and president from 2008-2010. During his time with the chamber, he worked to launch the new website, and changed the way the organization looked at fundraising and marketing.

Creating a steady stream of income was a key goal for Theroux, who knew that having a reliable budget plan was important for planning ahead and, ultimately, accomplishing a marketing plan that would stretch beyond Perham's city limits.

Theroux's leadership skills were fine-tuned throughout his career in broadcast engineering - one that took him to various positions throughout the country. However, Theroux said leadership comes down to the answers to one main question: Where do you want to go, and who do you want to be?

"If you can answer that, you will succeed, and you will lead," he said.

Having people to work with who are dedicated, bright and determined also helps, he said.

"We had the dream team," Theroux said, referring to the group of people who worked on the Chamber's campaign to brand it and expand its marketing plan.

Theroux also referenced a philosophy he feels to be key in success: reciprocity without keeping score.

Theroux said keeping tabs on who does what and who owes what gets in the way - and that's a problem he doesn't see in Perham.