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Busiahn found success, home in Fairmont

Above: Stephanie Busiahn has been selected a recipient of "4 Under 40."

FAIRMONT– Stephanie Busiahn, director of Fairmont Community Education and Recreation, is one of four recipients of “4 Under 40,” a program in its second year that recognizes up-and-coming leaders in the community.

Busiahn grew up in Willmar, Minn. and graduated from the high school there in 2000. After high school, Busiahn said she was undecided as to what she wanted to study but was considering social work.

“I went two years to Ridegewater Community College in Willmar, trying to get a better idea of what I wanted to do,” she said.

While in school she did some work with AmeriCorps, which included youth enrichment with the local community education program. Busiahn greatly enjoyed the work and had a strong interest in community ed after that.

After obtaining her associate’s degree in human services, Busiahn wanted to pursue her bachelor’s degree.

“I knew I wanted to go to MSU in Mankato and I literally started scrolling on their website for majors and landed on recreation and thought it sounded interesting since I liked community ed,” Busiahn explained.

At the end of her two years there she did an internship with the Minnesota Vikings training camp. She said by that time she was leaning toward event planning with her sights set on working with a major sports team. However, she knew she didn’t want to live in a metropolitan area so that kind of ruled out working for a major sports team.

Busiahn began applying for jobs out of college, which included a position at the Big Buddies program in Jackson as well as a position with the Fairmont Convention and Visitors Bureau. She ended up getting offered the job in Jackson and started there in January 2006.

“In mid-March I got a call to come over and interview for Visit Fairmont. I accepted that job in April,” Busiahn said.

2006 was a big year for her as she started a new job and got married to her husband, Trent, in September. The couple bought a house in Fairmont at the start of 2007.

Busiahn admitted that at that time she didn’t know anything about Fairmont or what a job with a Convention and Visitors Bureau all entailed, but thought it sounded like a good chance to get experience.

Her husband was working at IBM in Rochester, commuting everyday, and Busiahn said her plan was to keep the job here for a short time and and then re-assess.

“Looking back now, this community has an interesting way of wrapping its arms around you and pulling you in. I had no intention of staying here, especially for 15 years, but life happens,” Busiahn said.

The couple had its first child, Lucas, in 2011, and again started thinking about the possibility of relocating. In 2014 twins Jace and Jack were born.

“We briefly revisited relocating at that point. We had a 3-year-old and two infants and the closest family was two hours away,” Busiahn explained.

But by that point, they had found support systems in the community and ultimately considered Fairmont home.

Looking back on her 15-year career with Visit Fairmont, Busiahn shared what she enjoyed about the role.

“Being new to the community, that job really helped me see everything the community had to offer. I essentially entered in as a tourist and had to sell the community. It gave me a great perspective on the community,” Busiahn said.

She said the sense of collaboration the community here has is one she thinks is unique.

Busiahn shared what led to her job change from executive director of Visit Fairmont, to director of Fairmont CER.

“Since I moved here, I had served on the CER advisory council. I had toyed with whether it was a path I should revisit. I enjoyed staying up-to-date with what was happening locally from a community ed standpoint,” Busiahn said.

She said she knew former long-time director, Roni Dauer, would be retiring soon and she wanted to make sure community ed continued to go down a successful path.

In July 2021, Busiahn assumed her new role as director, fulfilling a long-time passion and goal of hers.

While she hasn’t yet been in her new role a year, Busiahn said she would like to see CER grow by adding an additional team member down the road. She’s also keeping an eye on the community’s growth and considering its needs.

“Our community will be faced with some decisions and some exciting opportunities with the Community Center, if/when (it happens) and we have to make sure our office strives to listen to and hear our community’s needs, regardless if we’re the only entity offering programming,” Busiahn said.

She’d also like to work on doing more networking. In her previous role at Visit Fairmont, she had served as president of a state organization related to convention and visitor bureaus and sat on the governor’s council for tourism.

“There was so much I took away from regional and statewide leadership in my previous role and I’m excited to dig into new networks and grow professionally and personally in this new arena,” Busiahn said.

Aside from being director of CER, Busiahn is also a member of Fairmont Rotary Club, vice president of the Martin County Historical Society board and member of Fairmont Area Life.

She shared how she felt after learning she had been selected as a recipient of “4 Under 40.”

“It’s a great honor. This community has been really great for me and I have enjoyed all the great people I’ve met and have had a chance to work with in various roles. It’s nice to be recognized for some of those contributions,” Busiahn said.

She also spoke kindly of the other three she’s being recognized with and shared she has connections with each of them as well. They are Jen Kahler, Linsey Preuss and Hubble Werre.

A recognition event honoring the four recipients will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 24 at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Fairmont. Tickets are on sale now at twinvalleybsa.org/4under40.

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