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Kevin Pechacek named Citizen of the Year

Kevin Pechacek was named this year's River Falls Ctizen of the Year. He's shown here with his dog, Tangle. Gretta Stark / River Town Multimedia. 1 / 2
Kevin Pechacek was named this year's Citizen of the Year. He said it will be a new experience for him, being in the River Falls Days parade this year, as he usually spends River Falls Days at The West Wind. Submitted photo.2 / 2

When Kevin Pechacek found out he was to be named Citizen of the Year at the upcoming River Falls Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet, he was surprised and humbled.

He found out a couple of days before a Chamber business breakfast, he said.

"They told me they wanted me there to announce that I had won the award," he said. "I'm extremely honored to be chosen and very grateful."

The chamber accepts nominations for Citizen of the Year from the general public and Chamber members vote on the nominees.

According to Chamber Chief Executive Officer Chris Blasius, Pechacek received multiple nominations for his involvement in many causes that benefit the community and his generosity.

"The River Falls Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau is honored to recognize Kevin for his positive and noteworthy contributions to our community," Blasius said. "As a recipient of this prestigious award, Kevin has been a staple to the community as a business owner for over 30 years and is a huge supporter of local businesses and nonprofits.

"With philanthropy in his blood, Kevin's impact is immeasurable and reaches far beyond River Falls. We are blessed to have Kevin as a member of our community."

Pechacek it is he who is blessed to be part of River Falls.

"I'm just blessed to be in a community like River Falls," Pechacek said. "My whole life I've lived here."

He credits the community for showing him its support throughout the years.

"My feeling is that you have to give back," he said. "And that's what I'm trying to do."

One of the ways he's done that is through the Christmas breakfasts hosted at the West Wind each year. The breakfasts are offered for a free-will donation, give a meal to those in need or who are alone on Christmas, and collect money for charity.

Pechacek retired and sold the West Wind to Tony Leone in 2016. Pechacek had operated the West Wind for 38 years, some of those years with his father and his brother, Craig.

The Christmas breakfasts are just one way Pechacek gave back during his time there. Those traditions have continued under Leone's leadership.

Pechacek said none of this would be possible without the efforts of others, especially his family, and West Wind staff, including his sons Jarred and Luke, Walter Ebertz, Steve Wilson, Betty Brueske, Eddie Miller, Sue Carlson, Lois Cernohous, Scott Pechacek, Craig Pechacek, Doug Geisler, Tony Leone, Emily Knapp, Walter Elberts, David Smith and Leo Beskar.

"I realize that my success is due to hiring the right people," Pechacek said. "I've been blessed."

Pechacek's other efforts include serving on the boards of various local organizations, including the Kinni Falls Rehab Center board and the Fundacio Comunidad board, which works with indigenous Peruvians. This nonprofit was started by Pechacek's wife's family, which provides teachers and a lunch program for students in Peru.

Those are just a couple of the boards Pechacek spends his time on.

When not serving on a board, Pechacek can often be found spending time with his five grandchildren—two of whom live in River Falls—visiting the West Wind, enjoying the Kinnickinnic, and walking his dog, Tangle.

All award recipients will be announced and recognized at the Annual Award and Recognition Banquet Jan. 31 at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls University Center. All are welcome to attend the largest Chamber networking event of the year, but registration is required prior to Jan. 24. You can do so at www.rfchamber.com or by calling the chamber office at 715-425-2533.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

(651) 301-7849