Chamber Recognition Banquet



The Oconto Chamber held its 3rd Recognition Banquet on Saturday, March 21, 2015 at the Oconto Legion Golf Club. The Volunteer of the Year Award was changed to the Ed Zahn Volunteer of the Year Award after the late Ed Zahn who manned the Chamber Welcome Center for many, many years. This year’s recipient was Karl Ballestad who was chosen due to his outstanding community involvement. Karl is a member of the Rural Urban Recognition Committee, Public Property Committee of Oconto County, the Extension Committee of Oconto County, the Oconto Hospital Citizen’s Foundation, the Friends of Farnsworth Library, Oconto County Historical Society and a past member of the Oconto Jaycees and Winter Wonderland. Karl was an Oconto middle school math and science teacher from 1967-2002. Karl was  “Teacher of the Year” in 1999. He and his wife Sheila also deliver meals on wheels. Of course, Karl is Santa as he dons his suit to visit children throughout the area at Christmas time. He and his wife Sheila have 3 children: daughter Amy and husband Tri Mia; son Ted and wife Michelle; and daughter Julie and husband Al. There are also 6 grandchildren. The Chamber had chosen Gary Zahn in 2011 and Jeremy Wusterbarth in 2013 for the Volunteer Award.

The “Business of the Year 2015” is Wagner Shell and owner Betty Wagner. In the 1950’s Harvey Wagner started a gas station and fuel delivery route in Antigo. In 1970, son Howard Wagner opened a convenience store in Wittenberg. In 1984, Betty Wagner and her family moved to Oconto and opened a convenience store. She has been in business for over 30 years. Wagner Shell not only sells gas, beer, and liquor but also sells the City of Oconto garbage bags, has a delivery service from 9 a.m-9 p.m., has a full service food mart, coffee bar, blending bar and deli food items. Wagner Shell is a lottery retailer and serves as the Chamber Welcome Center. Sen. Hansen along with Betty Wagner and other businesses were instrumental in getting the State of Wisconsin to allow blue promotional signs on Highway 41 after the by pass was constructed. Betty has utilized an extensive “Employee of the Month” and “Employee of the Year” program for her employees. She also works around the schedules of high school students to allow them to work parttime and learn important skills for the work force. Let’s not forget all the floats that Wagner Shell has entered in the Copperfest Parade. Some of the winners were “Alice in Shell-Land in 1987; “Life’s a Beach” in 1988; “Let the Good Times roll” in 1989 and one of the most memorable ones: “Shell Salutes America” in 1991. The manager of Wagner Shell since 1996 is Kim McDonald, deli manger is Katie Belongia, night time manager is Zach Feldt and night time deli manager is Brett Johnson. Betty and Wagner Shell have contributed to many of our community organizations often anonymously and without fanfare. Thus, they are a community supporter and community advocate. Past recipients of the “Business of the Year” include Thompson’s County Market in 2011 and Matravers Hardware etc., owner John Matravers in 2013. Congressman Reid Ribble and Senator Ron Johnson sent congratulatory DVD’s which were played at the end of the presentation of awards.

The Chamber also wishes to thank the Oconto Legion Golf Club for the great meal, Sara & Tim Perrizo for their technical assistance and all those who attended.

Ron Hayes, Oconto Chamber, President


Kathy Hayes, Oconto Chamber, Board Member