By Brad Karger
Kham Tong Yang is the 2017 recipient of the Stanley F. Staples Person of the Year Award. This annual award sponsored by Ruder Ware Law Firm is given to someone who has made a tremendous positive impact in the Hmong community of Marathon County.
Kham Tong is the current president of the Hmong American Center Board and is employed full-time by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue. Kham Tong is perhaps better known by county employees as “Tong” from his prior position as a loan officer with the Marathon County Employees Credit Union.
Kham Tong was nominated by County Administrator Brad Karger and County Board Supervisor Yee Leng Xiong primarily for volunteering his time and talents — the equivalent of a part-time job — for a full year in order to see the Hmong American Center through a difficult financial period.
Below is the text of Kham Tong’s nomination (I’m sure you’ll understand why he was awarded this distinction).
NOMINATION OF KHAM TONG YANG FOR STANLEY F. STAPLES AWARD
Yee Leng Xiong & Brad Karger
It is difficult to nominate a person for an award who is humble and doesn’t want a spotlight or publicity on them. A person who acts quietly, effectively, and with political astuteness to basically make things better, much better than they would otherwise be.
From February, 2016, to the present, Kham Tong Yang volunteered at the Hmong American Center as both Board President and Financial/Administrative Director. As Board President, he provided leadership to the center, which had nearly collapsed financially, but was still needed to assist in community integration, as well as economic and social advancement of Hmong people.
Starting in 2016, the center had to drop all its paid staff and survive as best it could with the contributions of volunteers. Being Board President at a time like this is difficult enough, but financial issues were not the only challenge; there was a major fundraising need for the Hmong Veteran’s Memorial, and there was the Save Our Children Peace March. Both events created tension in the Hmong community that Kham Tong Yang, as Board President, needed to address and to provide leadership for a more united Hmong community.
In addition to the big, well-publicized events, the Hmong American Center needed to continue to operate as an organization. There were bills to pay, records that must be kept, and communications that needed to occur. In the past, this was the responsibility of the Executive Director and the staff. But with no staff, Kham Tong Yang took it upon himself to come into the office from 4:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. every work day including Fridays to do the necessary administrative work at the Hmong American Center. This work was critical to the continuation of the center through its most difficult period.
The Hmong American Center, a center that Stanley F. Staples helped create, one that performs a vital role to the successful integration of Hmong people in Marathon County, survives because of the quiet, but heroic, efforts of Mr. Kham Tong Yang. Kham Tong volunteered his time and talent to Board leadership, but even more he basically worked part-time, without compensation, to perform the financial/administrative work necessary to the survival of the center.
For these reasons, we nominate Kham Tong Yang for the 2017 Stanley F. Staples Award.
Marathon County Administrator
In his Administrator role, Brad Karger leads an organization with 700+ employees and an annual budget of more than $170 million. Brad has been in leadership positions with Marathon County for the past 29 years. He is known statewide for generating innovative ideas and solutions to problems, openness and transparency, and a commitment to community service that extends well beyond the normal workday. Email Brad Karger
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