Perhaps no one person exemplified the Asset-Based Community Development approach as much as Nebraska City’s Nancy Hoch.
“She always said work with the willing,” said Doug Friedli, who worked alongside Nancy for many years. “Work with your strengths. It was absolutely in tune with NCF and of a similar mindset.”
Hoch’s impact on Nebraska was readily apparent by the time she became one of the original nine NCF incorporators in 1993 (and served on the statewide board from 1994–2002). She had already served as the first female member of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents in 1982, run for U.S. Senate in 1984, and was one of three women to run for Nebraska governor in 1986—the first time a woman, let alone three, campaigned for that office. The victor, Kay Orr, became the first female Republican governor in the United States.
Hoch died May 5, leaving behind a monumental legacy in Nebraska politics, community development, education, and much more. Despite her success on larger stages, Hoch never forgot her hometown. She worked tirelessly to improve and share Nebraska City’s magic, and her influence is still felt throughout amenities and attractions she helped make possible, including the Kregel Windmill Museum, Red Fox Run Sports Complex, the trolley system, and the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, which she co-founded. Her extensive list of projects earned Nancy the Nebraska Tourism Commission’s 2015 Henry Fonda Award.
The economic development community also benefited from Hoch’s tenacity. She played an integral role in bringing Cargill to Nebraska City, and in keeping the large employer in town following a successful campaign to double the number of local employees from 150 to 300. Today, the plant employs almost 600 people.
“She was always thinking about what was best for the community and how we could grow,” Friedli said. “It wasn’t about her. It was about the community.”
She served on numerous local boards and committees, including the Nebraska City Rotary Club, the Nebraska City Library Board, First Presbyterian Church, River Country Economic Development Corporation, and many groups dedicated to local arts and humanities.
“She had very deep roots in Nebraska City,” Friedli said. “She loved to plant new ideas, new projects. She loved to create things.”
Though the community lost one of its most ardent champions, Hoch’s influence will continue to be felt for years. And her example will inspire Nebraskans across the state for decades to come.
“It’s a big loss, but at the same time in her honor we need to keep pushing forward and live by some of the mantras she taught us,” Friedli said. “We need to look back at her style and her passion and her commitment and emulate that as much as we can.”