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4 Under 40: Blake Potthoff

Above: Blake Potthoff. Photo courtesy of Shawna Hill, owner of “In the Beginning Photography”

FAIRMONT — Blake Potthoff is well-known in the area. Executive Director of the Fairmont Opera House, Potthoff is one of four people set to be honored at an upcoming “4 Under 40” recognition event. The event is meant to honor those young people in a community who are up and coming leaders in the community.

Potthoff was available to share his background and how he got to where he is now.

“I grew up outside Dunnell and graduated from Martin County West High School in Sherburn in 2010,” Potthoff said. “Then I went to Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and graduated from there in 2014.

“I moved back to the area and had a couple of different positions. One was with the University of Minnesota in Jackson County, and then I worked for the radio station here in town for a while. Then I worked with kids with emotional and behavioral disorders at Krisma Counseling, which is closed now, and then I got hired at the Opera House in 2016.”

Potthoff had previous experience with the Opera House through Civic Summer Theatre as a child. He notes that he was excited to get a chance to return. That chance came when he answered a Facebook post and was asked to come in as a stage manager. From there he was promoted to technical director and eventually, executive director.

“It was a kind of a crazy transition,” he said. “But it was kind of cool to go around doing all the different jobs at the Opera House before becoming executive director. I hear from a couple of performers at different times, and they’re not used to an executive director helping set up sound, working on lights, and running around to help out wherever I can, but it’s something I really enjoy.

“Then I’m also communicating with donors and sponsors, meeting with volunteers, writing grants, speaking in public, and serving on different committees and boards. So there’ a really great mix of things that I’ve done over the past four years, and it’s really helped mold what my job is now and keeps this organization flexible. I know that I have to show that and not just say that.”

Potthoff states that his overall favorite aspect is working with people.

“I like being involved and invested in the community, and I get to do all of the things I really enjoy because there’s so much variety in my job. I get to make it whatever I want it to be.”

Potthoff also shares that his love for the Opera House and quality entertainment runs deep.

“I want the Opera House to be the mecca of Arts and Entertainment in Southern Minnesota and Northern Iowa,” he said. “That means there’s a lot of things that need to take place. We need to make sure we’re connecting with people around the region and locally. We have to be a presence in the community, we have to be recognizable and accessible.”

Potthoff said he considers his nomination for the 4 under 40 recognition to be a great honor. When asked what advice he would offer to other young adults, he shared that people should measure their success by their own standards.

“I don’t think people need to define their success based on what other people say success is,” he said. “Your success is defined by you and if you can find happiness and a sense of belonging and accomplishment, that’s all that matters.

“I would feel successful in my job even if I didn’t get recognized for it because I’m doing what I enjoy.

“I’m around people that I enjoy being around in a community that I really enjoy being in. At the end of the day, I can measure my success by how well I can sleep at night. You don’t have to be told that you’re successful to know that you’re successful.”

The 4 Under 40 event will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Feb. 25, at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Fairmont.

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