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Six from Northland among "50 over 50"

At 67, Candice Harshner says she isn't ready to retire from her job as executive director of the Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault. "The job has never gotten boring," Harshner said Monday. "PAVSA has been a pretty dynamic agency." For ...

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Clockwise from upper left: Linda Krug, Dr. Douglas Wendland, Candice Harshner, Betsy Bowen, Rebecca Rom and Lorrie Janatopoulos.
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At 67, Candice Harshner says she isn't ready to retire from her job as executive director of the Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault.

"The job has never gotten boring," Harshner said Monday. "PAVSA has been a pretty dynamic agency."

For her work during nearly 20 years with the Duluth nonprofit, Harshner was named as a member of the inaugural class of "50 over 50," which AARP Minnesota calls "a list of the most accomplished, inspiring leaders across Minnesota" who are older than 50.

The list, announced today, was developed by AARP Minnesota and the Minneapolis-based community-building organization Pollen in response to being "bombarded by lists of people under a certain age," in the words of the 50 over 50 website.

The list includes six people from the Northland. In addition to Harshner, they are:

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  • Former Duluth City Councilor Linda Krug
  • Dr. Douglas Wendland of Duluth
  • Grand Marais artist Betsy Bowen
  • Lorrie Janatopoulos, a community activist from Eveleth
  • Rebecca Rom, an environmental activist from Ely

In addition, the list includes Wy Spano, who now directs the Masters in Advocacy and Political Leadership (MAPL) program at Metropolitan State University in the Twin Cities but previously founded the same program at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
Other familiar names on the list include Dave Anderson of Edina, founder of the Famous Dave's chain of barbecue restaurants; and Jodi Harpstead of St. Paul, CEO of Lutheran Social Service who has been involved in the Center for Changing Lives, which will house homeless youth and the agency's youth activities in eastern Duluth.

The honorees were chosen from more than 350 nominees, said Seth Boffeli, AARP spokesman.

"It's humbling. It's overwhelming," Harshner said of the honor. "I've worked with so many professionals over the years, and I know that this state is full of them."

Working for PAVSA was her "dream job" when she started there as an educator in 1997, Harshner said. She was promoted to executive director in 2000. Over time, the agency has gone from serving 200 clients a year to between 800 and 1,000. That's not because the number of sexual assaults has grown but because PAVSA has been able to "reach out and touch the lives of victims in a much more real way," she said.

Harshner is "kind of an unsung hero," said Mary Salisbury, who nominated her.

Salisbury worked as office coordinator at PAVSA from 2009-12 before moving to the Twin Cities, where she now works for the YWCA of Minneapolis.

"She's progressive, vibrant, creative, innovative, sassy, trendy, spunky, open-minded, dynamic and empowering," Salisbury wrote of Harshner in her nomination letter, adding: "She makes being a woman in her 60s look absolutely amazing."

Like Harshner, Krug said she was "humbled" by the honor.

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"There are so many people across the state, and in the Northland alone, who give of their time and energy," she said.

After a career in faculty and administration at UMD, Krug was elected to the City Council in 2011 and served one term. She since has formed a consulting business to help business, government and nonprofit leaders communicate their ideas effectively.

Krug, 58, is also in her second term as an At Large member of Gov. Mark Dayton's Commission on Judicial Selection. In that role, she travels across the state to interview potential candidates for judicial appointments, for which she receives no pay and no mileage reimbursement.

"I do it because it's such important work," Krug said.

She co-directed the MAPL at UMD with Spano, and she lauded her former colleague's influence on Minnesota politics.

"The way he thinks about politics is that it's how we care for one another," Krug said of Spano. "That's very unique, especially in this day and age. ... He believes that and lives that."

The program was moved to Metropolitan State after budget cuts at UMD in 2014.

Bowen, 69, who grew up in Chicago but has spent her adult years in Grand Marais, said she was able to thrive as an artist because first her parents and then mentors in the Grand Marais art colony showed that they regarded art is something valuable.

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Bowen's Northwoods alphabet book, "Antler, bear, canoe," is being celebrated this year on the 25th anniversary of its original publication.

"Betsy's work appears everywhere from her studio/gallery to books to calendars to propane tanks to fireside Solstice pageants," Nina Simonowicz of the North Shore Visitor website wrote in her nomination letter. "Plus, the twinkle in her eye alone is a community asset."

The two nominations for Wendland, an occupational medicine specialist for St. Luke's hospital, told of how he spent six months in the western African nation of Sierra Leone in late 2014 and early 2015, during the height of the Ebola crisis. He was assigned by the World Health Organization to improve the way health care was delivered in the impoverished nation during the crisis.

To learn more

Learn about the 50 over 50 honorees at 50over50mn.org

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