The Hastings community is in good hands

Progress reported in healthcare, Hastings schools and the City of Hastings at State of the Community event


The Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau works hard to bridge community institutions and provide vital information. Its annual State of the Community Luncheon gave business leaders an opportunity to hear firsthand on items of vital interest on several fronts: healthcare, City of Hastings government and Hastings ISD #200.

The event was hosted Feb. 7 at the Hastings Public House and featured lunch and a great networking opportunity before the “heavy” business was presented. Chamber Board Chair Tony Ciro told the crowd that the event has been held for over a decade.

“We’re excited to have the chance to come together again today,” he said. “One of the things I’ve come to admire about Hastings I the close knit community we live and work fin. I think today’s event is a testament to that. What a powerful thing that we can bring together our business community and several of our community leaders to learn more about what is happening in Hastings. I know this is not something that happens in all communities.”

“I know we’re all here today because we believe that a thriving community requires strong partnerships,” said Ciro, noting that District 41 Sen. Judy Seeberger and District 41B Rep. Shane Hudella were also on hand. Ciro also thanked the event sponsor, Dakota Electric.

First to take the podium was Jill Ostrem, who was appointed president of Allina United Health Hospital – Hastings Regina Campus and Allina Health River Falls Area Hospital.

Ostrem has more than 25 years of experience in hospital administration.

“Jill has a proven track record of success in all the hospital she has led and is extremely well respected in her field,” said Ciro.

“We’re delighted to be here as part of the Hastings community,” said Ostrem. “I stepped into the role of president for the Hastings Regina campus when Helen Strike retired in the fall. Helen has been a great colleague, and we have seen growth and development and great progress here in Hastings under Helen’s leadership. Our whole team is here to continue that.”

Ostrem said the leadership team is excited to continue the rich tradition of quality healthcare provided at Regina for generations.

“We’re really happy to get to know your community better. Regina Hospital has been here for 70 years. It’s a long legacy of history, and I know many of you are connected to that in very special ways,” she said.

She said the hospital does about 1,000 patient admissions annually and about nine times more emergency department and outpatient visits.

“We’re trying to meet the needs of the community in the ways that they need it most in our outpatient services, in our emergency department, through our clinics and through the hospital care,” she said. “WE just really appreciate the opportunity to be part of that and to do that, particularly things like the growth of our cancer program, the growth of our mental health services, both on the inpatient side of mental health programs and the increasing growth of our clinics and specialty services.”

Hastings Schools Superintendent Dr. Tamara Champa took the helm of the district in July 2023, and in seven months, she’s worked to put her stamp on local education. She touched on several big topics in her State of the Schools address.

“I’ve been in Hastings not very long but already I’ve had just an incredible welcome to this community,” she said. “I’m surrounded by just incredible staff.”

The Hastings School Districts serves over 4,000 students at six sites in a district that encompasses 170 square miles.
She said the district’s mission is being student centered and aims to have “a caring inclusive culture for all and empowers out students, families and staff focused on achievement and engagement.”

“One of the things that drew me here was just the tagline ‘Students are at the heart of all that we do.’ Every time we’re making a decision, we turn back and talk about does that impact kids, because so often we get other things that stand in the way,” said Champa.

She said when she was hired her goals were to “establish a collaborative and trusting relationship with the school board,” and to build positive relationships and trust throughout the community “through open, honest and purposeful communication.”

“One of the things I came into right away was the technology levy. I would have been reaching out to all groups, but that just kind of sparked that urgency a little bit more, so I had the opportunity to do that early on and then develop a deep understanding of the district’s finances, operations, priorities, programs, practices, plans, achievements and goals,” she said.

She thanked the community for supporting the technology levy in the November election.

“It does make a bid difference in the work that we’re doing, in so many areas,” she said.

She said the district heard from residents in a survey that its top priorities should be school security and safety and to recruit and retain high quality staff.

“We’ve got some challenges here, but we have an incredible staff, and I now have been able to experience that and could not agree more.”

Other priorities listed were student behavior and discipline, mental health services and career and technical education.

She said Hastings has a team working to prepare programs to ready students for “pathways.”

“For those of you familiar with Shakopee, at their new high school, they have pathways for learning. Students in ninth grade have the ninth grade seminal and then from there, they choose different pathways,” she said.

She said teachers will work with “our industry partners on how we come together to continue to provide opportunities for our students.”

We’re very excited about this,” said Champa.

Hastings Mayor Mary Fasbender was invited to take “center stage.”

“I think it’s very important that our chamber, school district and our city share their visions for the betterment of the community,” said Fasbender. “We couldn’t do it without all of our best partners in the room today.”

She recognized the community partnership that was celebrated in 2023 with the opening of The Confluence.

“We are so fortunate to have this amazing venue in Hastings,” she said. “The Confluence Hotel is quickly becoming a visitor and conference destination, and I look forward to welcoming more groups to our city.”

She noted community collaboration on input received on the Vermillion Street project.

“Community engagement was visible this year with our Hwy. 61 study and outreach to the business community and resident. This will ensure success on the important project set to begin in 2027,” she said.

Fasbender noted other community projects like the renovation of the historic Hastings City Hall Dome and upgrades at the Hastings Civic Arena. Priority one, though, is fighting PFAS forever chemicals in the city drinking water.

“PFAS remains to be our top priority this year,” she said. “Our state and national elected officials and organizations like Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Pollution Control are collaborating with us in addressing PFAS concerns.”

The city plans to build three new water treatment facilities to link with existing and future wells to filter out PFAS at a cost of $70 million.

She noted continued residential, commercial and industrial development throughout the thriving community.

She credited United Heroes League Founder Shane Hudella for helping the community become the host of the 2026 Hockey Day Minnesota.

“We really are so appreciative of you,” she said.

She also praised the work of the new city Arts & Culture Commission.

“They initiated having more Dale Lewis art added to the trails on Levy Park and at Vermillion Falls Linear Park. They have completed an inventory of arts assets in the city hall building, grounds and parks. They brought arts and culture enthusiasts together for a networking event, and they hosted a tour in January this year, which brought great awareness to the beauty and history of our city hall,” said Fasbender.

She said Hastings’ Public Safety departments are “strong and responsive,” with the police department responding to more than 22,000 calls in 2023. She noted that fire department call volume increased more than 8.5 percent, with 3,300 EMS calls and 560 fire calls.

She also credited city staff under the leadership of Administrator Dan Wietecha to implement and develop strategic initiatives to make Hastings financially sound.

“We thank our staff for their efforts and using our core values to achieve the good for this community,” she said. “We do all of this with strong financials…I applaud our staff for making the best recommendations for this community.”

“We wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for our city council and staff. Thank you to our city council for setting priorities and governing our city. Dan, I thank you for your leadership, your steam and staff, for all you do to move the strategic plan and projects across the finish line,” said Fasbender.

-Jack McLoone contributed to this article