Our Town Gothenburg: Young leaders

Pure Nebraska
Published: Aug. 15, 2023 at 10:14 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 15, 2023 at 11:23 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

GOTHENBURG, Neb. (KOLN) - In Gothenburg, you’ll find a large group of young adults who are more than happy to take on leadership roles, and bring positive energy to projects in town.

At 31 years old, Gothenburg Mayor Will Rahjes brings a youthful flair to his position of leadership. He says having young people in leadership roles in town is not uncommon. “It’s a pretty big feather in the cap of a community like Gothenburg, and really any rural community, to have a core group of young professionals, and I guess young folks in general who are willing to kind of step up and make a difference,” Rahjes said. The mayor says young people are stepping up, because people before them set the example. He also says young adults are choosing to make a life in Gothenburg, because of the many opportunities found there. “I spent some time in bigger cities on vacation, and after a few days in a row you remember why you like Gothenburg,” Rahjes said. “I think the ability for someone to capitalize on any kind of leadership opportunity is much easier to accomplish in a smaller town.”

Jackie Erb works at the Gothenburg hospital, and is an example of another young leader. “As a certified registered nurse anesthetist, I help provide the anesthesia services here at the hospital,” Erb said. “We help cover the floor as far as OB goes. We help with epidurals, and we help with C-sections if we need to. We also help in the ER.” Erb has deep roots in town. “I grew up here, so it’s always nice to come back to the place where you were,” Erb said. “My family came here in 1990, so essentially since I was in preschool, I went through the whole school system here. I left to get my nursing degree, went to anesthesia school, then came back here for my first job right out of anesthesia school.” That was in 2015, when she was about 28 years old. “With that, I was pregnant with our second child, and we essentially raised our family here,” Erb said. “It’s always been important to give back, to make Gothenburg continue be a place where we want to raise our family, and where other people want to raise their families.” Many changes have taken place since she returned home. “There was a huge campaign when I was coming back to build a YMCA. That has been a huge upgrade to Gothenburg. It’s a place where kids can go, and it has a huge indoor pool which is phenomenal.”

Many other changes have been made thanks to young leaders who come from all walks of life. Andy Jobman is one of those local leaders, who is a farmer. He also serves as chairman of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association. “I think leadership for a lot of young people around Gothenburg started at a young age in 4-H and FFA,” Jobman said. “Those are huge programs in the area. We were certainly blessed with good teachers and advisors who helped out with 4H and FFA.” Andy says people want to be in leadership roles locally, because there are exciting things happening in Gothenburg. “We have a great school system, we have great amenities in the community, there are lots of job opportunities, and much of that is related to agriculture of course,” Jobman said. “When agriculture thrives, main street thrives. In general, there’s this desire to have a safe place to live, a place for reliable job opportunities, and a good community.” It turns out that young people are finding that, and promoting it, in Gothenburg. “We all believe in the community for sure,” Erb said. “We just want to see positive growth. There’s positive growth in the hospital, positive growth in the school system, and we are making sure we have a voice for the younger crowd. We are all here to promote Gothenburg, and to be able to grow it into something we want for our kids.”