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Hammond to be honored by Blue Earth Chamber tonight

By Staff | Jan 17, 2011

Rob Hammond

It was a total act of fate which brought Robert Hammond, Jr., to Blue Earth in 1976 to live and work.

The Iowa native embraced his new-found community, however, and has served it well, including the past 12 years as its mayor.

At tonight’s Blue Earth Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet and Meeting, Hammond will be honored with the Community Service Award.

Blue Earth’s mayor was born and raised in Estherville, Iowa.

After graduation — and being named an All-Second Team center on the high school basketball team — Hammond went to the University of Iowa, and then Drake Law School for a law degree.

“I worked for a year and a half for the Iowa Insurance Department in Des Moines,” Hammond recalls. “My job was to field complaint calls from upset members of the public, and act as a go-between with the insurance companies, representing the public.”

He was on a canoe trip on the Turkey River in northwest Iowa, when he was hit with an epiphany.

“It was a Friday night in the fall, and all the small towns had their football field lights on, just like the movie ‘Friday Night Lights.’ I suddenly realized I really wanted to live in a small town.”

After that decision was made, Hammond next decided to send out his resume to law firms in county seat towns of around 5,000 population.

“I thought that would be a nice size city to live in, plus I wanted a town with three law firms,” he says. “I sent out resumes to every law firm in every county seat that size from Des Moines to Minneapolis.”

When he was done, he happened to have three copies of his resume left over. Not wanting to waste them, he sent the three out to law firms in a slightly smaller city ­- Blue Earth.

“The town fit my criteria, and had three law firms,” Hammond says. “The population was under my target level, but close.”

He got a response – and a job offer – from Arvid Wendland and Don Callaghan’s law firm in Blue Earth, and took it.

“It was Arvid and Don who stressed community service,” Hammond remembers. “So, I got involved in the community.”

One of his first acts was to join the Jaycees.

“There were a lot of young people who had also just moved to Blue Earth; like Denny Zitnak, John Keister and Rich Belou,” Hammond says. “We had 120 members in Jaycees and we were pretty active.”

Hammond didn’t stop there, however, and has been very active with the United Fund board, the swimming pool group and as a mentor for Blue Earth Area Mentors.

He has served on the board of directors of the Riverside Town and Country Golf Club, the United Hospital District board (for 10 years), the Corn Plus board since 2003 (and its secretary-treasurer from 2003 to 2009), and the Blue Earth Industrial Service Corporation (BESCO) board.

Hammond also served as president of the Blue Earth Chamber of Commerce in 1988-89, and has been a very active member and officer with the Sertoma Club.

The mayor has also been on the Chain of Lakes Treatment Center board in Fairmont, and on the Midwest Wireless board from 1996 to 2006.

That membership has to do with Hammond’s current job. In December of 1987, he left the law firm and began his career at BEVCOMM telephone/communications company in Blue Earth.

“I started with the title of comptroller and attorney,” Hammond says. “Now my official title is general counsel and chief operating officer.”

He has been kept busy over the years, with all the legal work involved with a communications company.

“We have had a lot of contracts with other telephone companies over the years,” Hammond says. “Many of them had to do with the development of cellular phone service.”

Local telephone companies originally were given the licenses for cell phones in Minnesota. This meant the creation of a lot of land easement contracts for cell towers, as well as others for fiber optic lines. It also meant getting agreements in place with 11 other phone companies.

“Neil and Bill (Eckles) have generally worked on the internal matters of our company, while I concentrate on the outside (of the area) concerns,” Hammond says.

When not at work, the mayor of Blue Earth has one hobby he is passionate about – golf.

“You can usually find me out on the golf course four or five nights a week during the summer,” he admits. “It is what I love to do.”

Of course, he also likes to do whatever he can to make Blue Earth a great community to live in.

Monday night, the community has the opportunity to thank him for all his dedication over the years.

“My parents, who live in Rochester now, plan on attending,” Hammond says. So does his sister, her husband and daughter. They will travel from Plymouth.

“I was surprised when Shelly (Greimann, chamber executive director) told me I was going to be given the award,” Hammond says. “I certainly didn’t do it (community service) for any award, I just wanted to serve where I could.”