Hanson connects the dots
Dick Hanson knows how to bring people together.
The Woodbury resident did it professionally as a community affairs executive for one of Minnesota's largest companies before retiring. For the past several years, Hanson has taken his unique talents to the Woodbury Community Foundation (WCF), where he helps build momentum by matching people with causes.
His contributions haven't gone unnoticed. Hanson was named the 2011 Citizen of the Year by the Woodbury Chamber of Commerce.
In her nomination letter to the chamber, WCF Executive Director Alisa Rabin Bell called Hanson, who has lived in Woodbury for more than 41 years, "the epitome of an engaged citizen."
"Dick Hanson is absolutely invaluable to the Woodbury Community Foundation," Rabin Bell told the Bulletin. "He is truly passionate about the work we are doing and has dedicated his time, energy and money ... to serving the people of this community through his work on our board."
Hanson, the secretary and second vice chair of the WCF board, said he sees his role with the foundation as being "a connector."
"I try to light sparks," he said.
Rabin Bell said Hanson has been instrumental in building the foundation's success. He drove efforts behind the 2009 Wilder research survey that gave foundation members a vivid snapshot of needs among Woodbury residents.
He currently leads the WCF jobs initiative, which involves putting veterans and others back to work. The initiative has blended the foundation, the chamber, the city of Woodbury, Washington County, the Department of Employment and Economic Development, the state's Veterans Affairs department, the Woodbury Yellow Ribbon Network, local churches and others.
When he's not working on specific initiatives, Hanson is out recruiting community members and business leaders to be part of WCF efforts.
"There are many things we do that would not happen if it weren't for Dick," Rabin Bell said. "I feel extremely blessed to have him on my team as we navigate the needs in our community and search for solutions."
Hanson, an Air Force veteran, takes the compliments in stride, preferring not to take credit.
"It's not about me," he said. "It's about matching up my behavior with the dreams and goals of the community - and my faith and belief in what's the right thing to do."
He named the late Dick Stafford - a two-time Citizen of the Year award recipient - as his mentor, calling him "the epitome of community service."
Hanson's experience in connecting communities with causes runs deep. After working his way up through 3M's sales department, he became the company's community affairs guru in the 1990s until he retired in 2001.
He said the experience helped shape his approach to civic engagement. By working with 3M to establish partnerships among private, public and nonprofit groups, he tapped into ways he could leverage resources "to make things happen," Hanson said.
These days, he said he uses those skills to sew together disparate sectors of the community to help form a cohesive, interconnected framework that is geared toward solving Woodbury's needs.
Connecting the dots, Hanson said, "is really all I do."
He said he's honored and humbled by the chamber award. Being named Citizen of the Year was a complete stunner, he said.
"It's not something I ever sought," Hanson said.