When Lyle Persels stepped up to the podium to accept the 2012 Community Service Award given by Osceola Chamber Main Street and Rotary, he kept his speech short.
However, he said there were two words he wanted to say to the community.
“Thank you,” Persels said.
The award was given to Persels during the Osceola Chamber Main Street (OCMS) and Clarke County Development Corporation (CCDC) annual dinner Jan. 22 at Lakeside Casino. Rotary President Bill Kuebler presented the award to Persels.
During an interview after the annual dinner, Persels said, “Needless to say, it means a great, great deal, and I very much appreciate it. I think there are a lot of very, very deserving people that should have come before me, but the community’s been an important part of my life since I was born here.”
Persels was nominated for the award by Dr. Jim and Mary Ellen Kimball, both of whom are previous winners.
In the Kimballs’ nomination letter, it said, “How fortunate are we that a young man, born in Osceola, served in the U.S. Navy for 25 years, then returned to his hometown and has given 30 more years in tangible and vital community service.”
After Persels retired from the navy, he returned to Osceola and was elected mayor in 1982 to serve a four-year term.
During this time, streets and other infrastructure improvements were completed, the first improvements in 40 years. Also, a new city hall was built and West Lake dam was raised to help increase Osceola’s water supply.
Persels served at president of Iowa Assemblies, a Group Dekko company. Under Persels’ leadership, the South Central Iowa Community Foundation, which serves seven counties, was formed along with the high-school adjunct CCOPS (Clarke County Organization of Philanthropical Services).
Collectively, both groups have granted millions of dollars to the Clarke County area.
Persels helped with the Peter Toth Warrior Osceola sculpture project, and years later, the $25,000 replacement sculpture by Jessie Kuhs.
The nomination letter said, “Economic development has always been Lyle’s strength.”
Persels became a lifetime honorary member of CCDC for 20 years of service. In 2007, CCDC voted him back on the active board for his expertise and insight into visionary planning.
With the support of the city, Persels formed the Airport Management Commission in 1996. This has resulted in many physical and organizational improvements.
In the past year, Persels has written grants for, completed or is over-seeing four major airport projects.
Persels was appointed to the Iowa Aviation Council for two terms. He is also a charter member of the Iowa Aviation Promotion group.
Locally, Persels promotes aviation by having served as president, secretary and current treasurer of the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association), which has dozens of members who meet in Osceola each month.
“I just think of all the community has meant to me, and there’s still so much to do,” Persels said.