TRCF honoree: Kerr spoke up for less fortunate

Laurie Kerr is one of five people being honored Oct. 27 by the Three Rivers Community Foundation. The other honorees are:

•Linda Lee

•Denny Chuba

•Mike Dorvinen

•Kathleen Poate

by Nathan Warner
Contributing writer
Community leader Laurie Kerr of Zimmerman will be honored at the fourth annual Three Rivers Community Foundation gala for how she helped make the area a better place to live and send kids to school.

When Laurie Kerr got cancer, she fought the disease personally and for others by raising funds and awareness.

Although Kerr died Feb. 28, 2010, of pancreatic cancer, she is being recognized for her leadership in the Zimmerman and Elk River communities that she provided on several fronts.
Kerr’s memory stands as a testament to her accomplishments and determination. Before moving to Zimmerman, Laurie and her husband, Mike Kerr, were both airline transport pilots. In 1993, Laurie and Mike moved to Zimmerman and immediately became involved in their new community. After the birth of their children, Kelsey and Brandon, Laurie went back to school and earned a master of arts degree in public administration from Hamline University in 1997.
She completed an internship with the city of Hugo and implemented a curbside recycling program, which was a first for the city. After graduating, she worked in the planning/zoning department for the city of Elk River.
There, she was responsible for code enforcement, refuse collection contracts and landfill concerns, which led to her involvement in the Sherburne County Solid Waste Committee.
It was after this that she went to work for Livonia Township, implementing computerized accounting practices and overseeing other compliancy issues.
From there, Kerr served on the Connexus Energy Board of Directors for 10 years, was elected to the Elk River Area School Board in 2003, and served as a member for seven years. She also served as chair of the School Board, was an active member of the Boys & Girls Club of Elk River and served as a student mentor to Zimmerman Middle School.
In addition, she served on the ISD 728 Consensus Committee, Sherburne County Solid Waste Advisory Committee, Community Youth Task Force, and Zimmerman Star City Commission.
Memberships she held included St. John Lutheran Church and the Zimmerman Booster Club, while also serving as the Livonia Lions club treasurer and was a charter member.
Kerr is most widely remembered as an unequalled advocate of fairness and equity for students suffering from poor socio-economic means.
Her husband, Mike, launched the Laurie L. Mezera-Kerr Foundation for Public Education in 2010, which set up a scholarship in her memory. The scholarship is available to graduates of Zimmerman High School who are planning to attend a four-year accredited public college or university. The first scholarship was awarded in the spring of this year to graduate Sarah Steinke.
“As an Elk River school board member, Laurie oversaw several scholarship events throughout the district and she wanted to see more scholarship opportunities for Zimmerman High School,” Mike Kerr said. “I think this scholarship will help achieve Laurie’s goal while also setting up a living memory for her.”
He added that the scholarship is unique because it offers support to students for all four years of their education, provided they maintain a certain standard of academic achievement and personal conduct.
Mike hopes to do more with the foundation but for now, he’d like to see the scholarship build enough of an endowment so they won’t have to constantly raise money from the community.
Sherburne County Commissioner Rachel Leonard will speak at the gala on behalf of Laurie. She remembers Laurie as an impassioned individual for young people and education, among many other things.
“Laurie was very influential wherever she went,” she said. “I first met her when I was campaigning to get on the school board to launch the Zimmerman Junior High School and I can say with certainty that Laurie was the wind beneath my wings. I referred to her often afterwards as the ‘Zimmerman voice for community choice.’”
Leonard says she was always impressed by Laurie’s incredible array of skills.
“She was just such a wonderful, multifaceted individual who was always volunteering for things she felt impassioned about in the community,” she added, “and I still like to think of Laurie as piloting our star.”