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Dennis Zitnak makes community involvement part of his life

By Staff | Jan 21, 2008

Dennis Zitnak wonders if they got the right guy. He was named the recipient of the “Blue Earth Community Service Award” for 2007 last week.

He admits to being very involved in the community, but thinks others are too, and they could easily have been named as well.

Zitnak has been a pharmacist in Blue Earth for a long time. “We moved To Blue Earth from Austin in 1975 to work with Denny Pieschel at the drugstore here.”

They were partners after that for 10 years before Zitnak became sole owner in 1987.

“You know, you kind of get involved when you first come to town just to meet some people,” he said. “But then after that you stay involved because you enjoy it and it’s fun.”

He has been involved in many areas over the years. He has served as a board member of the Blue Earth Economic Development Agency for many years, and its numerous sub-committees.

He has been active with United Way, the BE Chamber of Commerce, the BE Industrial Service Corp., the Blue Earth Lions Club.

Currently he is on the United Hospital District Board, and also on the Economic Development Authority. With those two he stays very active on many of the things in the community.

He is also on the Blue Earth Area Schools Foundation. “That is a very good group, doing a lot of great things for the school,” he said.

He also is one of the Junior Achievement teachers at the school and for six or seven years he has been giving the program in second grade.

Zitnak says that all the people volunteering to help out everywhere makes this a unique place to live.

“Maybe some go into it for a personal reason, but then they feel it is more that that,” he said.

Zitnak credits his wife, Sue, for encouraging him to do a lot of community volunteering, and then being an example of a person who volunteers. “We both believe that it is fun to be involved,” he said. “You meet with people you might not normally meet with, and recognize what other people’s talents are.”

Zitnak meets a lot of people in his work as a pharmacist and at the hospital pharmacy.

He credits his staff at helping his business as he helps the community.

“I have, without a doubt, the best employees anyone could have,” he said, “they treat the store more like its their own than I do.”

The proof of that is that many of them have stayed working there for years. Deb Murphy has been there 32 years, Kayla Lawrence for 21 years, and Thelma Frerichs just retired after 27 years there. Other employees are Kristy Lorenz, Terry Wells and Sue Miner.

Zitnak says he is happy his employees stay a long time, because “I am just not good at hiring people, so I just hope they are good.” So far that technique has worked well he said.

For hobbies, Zitnak could only think of two. “I love classic cars,” he said. And he currently owns a couple of them. He said his wife only allows him to have two at a time, and as he has his eye on another one, one of the current ones might have to go up for sale.

“I’m also a lousy golfer,” he said, “but I like to do it.”

He did say that a third hobby might be that he likes to travel.

“But really, my kids are what I am interested in,” he said. “With me its family first.”

The Zitnaks have three daughters, Abby, Jane and Natalie. The older two are married and the Zitnaks will soon be grandparents for the first time. “We are pretty excited about it,” he said.

That might mean something else that will take up some of his time.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Shelly Greimann said that Dennis Zitnak is very deserving of the Community Service Award honor.

Zitnak will receive the award this evening, Monday, at the Chamber Annual Banquet and Meeting at 5:30 p.m. at Hamilton Hall.