Guest Column: Why I love Albert Lea?

Published 3:28 pm Friday, December 29, 2017

By Valerie Kvale

Valerie Kvale is the career planner and placement specialist at Workforce Development Inc. She enjoys watching old Western movies, college football and the Vikings. She also loves experimenting with new recipes (her holiday treats are a specialty).

Why do I love Albert Lea? To the farm kid from north Iowa, Albert Lea meant a once-a-year trip to the Freeborn County Fair and a Christmas season family outing to The Stables for dinner and then touring the city to view Christmas lights. Albert Lea was also shopping at Skyline Mall and Greg’s Quik Stop cheeseburgers for the family — eaten in the car, probably to keep us kids in line!  To the teen recently granted a driver’s license, Albert Lea meant cruising Broadway on the weekends and trips to the implement dealers on a parts run for my dad.

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Albert Lea as an adult means so much more to me. I’ve worked in the city for many years. Except for about six years in Mankato for college and my first teaching job, Albert Lea has been my work home. Over the years, I have made so many connections and wonderful friendships through my work experiences and my personal life. 

As I look back at the places I have been fortunate to work, I realized I have always worked with people. I’ve worked at the old Central High School as a paraprofessional and for nearly 10 years with Albert Lea High School theater department with Gordon and Lilah Aas. I worked with Community Education and the Adult Basic Education/English Language Learners program, helping people better themselves through education. I’ve worked at Semcac, helping families find resources and services to improve their quality of life. I worked for Freeborn County Extension and experienced the county fair from a different side. My current employer, Workforce Development Inc., allows me to connect jobseekers and job changers with employers — to improve the quality of their lives through new employment opportunities. This position also allows me to work with large and small employers to learn about their businesses, what skills and training are needed to find gainful employment and why they are a part of our community. I have also been able to serve on committees and work groups to further the workforce of the area.

My love for Albert Lea also enriches my personal life. The community events such as Wind Down Wednesdays, the Third of July Parade, ACT on Broadway events, the Big Island Rendezvous, Freeborn County Fair, Thursdays on Fountain, the farmers market and the car shows on Broadway or at Thorne Crest Senior Living Community, are activities that I look forward to being a part of. Add in the quality educational opportunities, excellent service and trades, the great restaurants, specialty shops and beautiful community parks and grounds — Albert Lea is a treasure chest, waiting to be opened and explored.

When family, friends or co-workers from out of the area visit our community, I love the opportunity to introduce them to hidden gems such as our restaurants, stores and parks. Trying to determine a location for my photo to accompany this article presented a problem — so many choices! I finally settled on my chosen site because it truly is the heart of the city; you can drive three to four miles in any direction and be able to experience all that Albert Lea has to offer.