CUBA CITY—With a presidential title herself, Donna Rogers looks to continually improve the City of Presidents. After 22 years of volunteering for the City of Presidents organization, Rogers was named president of the group in 2015. Since 1993, she has helped the group make improvements in Cuba City to further stress the presidential theme that started with presidential shields installed along Main Street for the U.S. Bi-centennial project in 1976.
“I like to see hometowns improved upon,” Rogers said. “Cuba City has so much potential.”
Rogers grew up on a farm near Dickeyville. She and her husband, Pat, have three sons—Erin, Ryan and Brett—and seven grandchildren. After her children were grown, Rogers started getting more involved in the community.
“It started with being an officer for Cole Acres Ladies Organization, being chairperson of the St. Rose Turkey Supper and then, when my husband started his construction business, I became involved with the chamber of commerce,” Rogers said. “While a member of the Cuba City Chamber, I received the Citizen of the Year award in 2005.”
When Joe Goeman got Rogers involved in the City of Presidents organization, it became her passion.
“I love small towns, where people watch over you and if you are not sitting in your spot at church, they ask if you have been ill or out of town,” Rogers said. “Over the years, seeing the great improvements in Cuba City is very rewarding. This is all possible by the generosity of many businesses, organizations and individuals.”
Over the years, Rogers has been involved helping change the city’s motto to “City of Presidents;” host the Loyalty Day Celebration where veteran dignitaries attended from across the state; work at the 13 Presidential Balls; establish the City of Presidents float to participate in local parades; coordinate presidential appearances; replace the presidential shields; display the 50 state flags; update the veteran’s monument and rename the park to Veteran’s Memorial Park; and establish the Presidential Courtyard including the Northern Railway caboose containing local memorabilia. She said the most memorable of those was helping Goeman bring presidential candidates to Cuba City in 2004. Candidate John Kerry and President George W. Bush both made stops and Bush even signed his presidential shield. That shield is now a part of the history on display in the caboose along Main Street.
“The railroad was very important to Cuba City,” Rogers said. “At one time Georgetown was bigger than Cuba City, but once Cuba City had the train come, Cuba City prospered. The first train came through Cuba City in 1874 and the last train in 1978.”
The caboose is open Memorial Day to Labor Day on Saturdays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and by appointment. The City of Presidents group has a team that coordinates opening the caboose, maintaining the Presidential Courtyard and updating the local history.
Rogers retired last May from John Deere Dubuque Works after 41 years. There she was also involved in community service and helped with Habitat for Humanity, United Way and their needy families for Christmas projects. She was also a member of many recognition and team building events and, in 2014, was presented with the Product Support Signature Award for her commitment to teamwork.
Rogers has been highly involved in the community through the St. Rose Church. She has been a communion server for many years and has served on the St. Rose Council, currently serving as president of the council. She is currently a part of the Cuba City School District’s key communicator network to help the community stay involved with everything going on at the school district. Rogers also served on the Cuba City Community Center committee.
“We provided the numbers to the citizens of Cuba City through many informational meetings and when it went to vote, we listened to the community,” Rogers said. “The referendum did not get approved for a new community center, but that is how freedom of speech works, for the people and by the people.”
“Howdie and Georgia Murray did a great job managing the Cole Acres Rookie Golf program for the last 10 years and asked Pat and I if we could take over as the managers of this program in 2016,” Rogers said. “It is a great opportunity for young kids to learn etiquette and golf. Normally about 90 golfers from surrounding schools attend the six-week, June-July rookie golf program. There are 10 great people who also volunteer their time as rookie golf coaches.”
Rogers also recently joined the Grant County Tourism Council to promote Cuba City. On April 16, Discover Wisconsin visited Cuba City to film a segment for an episode about the Great River Road. The clip can be viewed at www.discoverwisconsin.com.
With all of these accomplishments, Rogers still sees more that can be done for Cuba City.
“In the future I’d like to see a presidential museum in Cuba City,” Rogers said. “There aren’t many in the United States. We have over 1 million visitors in Galena each year. We need to get some to stop here. I know how hard it is to be a small business; we need to do everything we can to bring people here and help businesses succeed.”
Rogers said having great mentors like Joe Goeman and Bob Schink, who demonstrated volunteering and teamwork as a way of life, has guided, trained and inspired her to serve her community.
“I love being retired,” Rogers said. “It gives me more time to be with my husband, children, grandchildren, family and friends. It also gives me more time to volunteer. Cuba City has so many people that donate so much of their time to this community. I love the community service, but I can think of many people who have done more. I have many relatives and friends who are veterans, nurses, police, EMTs and firefighters. If they do not do their job, people can die. They are the true heroes.”
Editor's Note: This column will be a special addition to the Tri-County Press on a monthly basis. Look for each installment near the end of the month. All volunteers are recomended for the article by Mayor Tom Gile. If you have ideas for future volunteers in the community to be recognized, contact Gile at 608-744-3203.