A mentor. A passionate leader. A genuine community-minded advocate.
Many words can be used to describe Jim Oliverson, who retired this year after nearly 40 years at Kalispell Regional Healthcare.
A couple new words are accurate, too.
Last night Oliverson received the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce’s oldest and most prestigious award as an honor for his civic and volunteer spirit that spans a lifetime and provides a legacy for the community.
BJ Lupton of Snappy Sports Senter, last year’s recipient of the Great Chief Award, delivered Oliverson the honor at the 113th annual chamber banquet in Kalispell.
The other award winners on Thursday night were Pam Carbonari, who was named Businesswoman of the Year, and Travis Sallee of Loren’s Auto Repair, who was named Businessman of the Year.
Oliverson arrived in the Flathead Valley in 1989 after serving the Ronan community at St. Luke Community Hospital. One of the visionaries of Kalispell Regional Medical Center, Oliverson loved each person affiliated with the hospital, whether they were wearing a white coat and stethoscope, janitor uniform, or patient gown, feeling the hospital should play a positive role to every person in the valley.
Over his 39-year tenure with the hospital, Jim served as director of human resources, chief operating officer, and interim CEO, before serving as the vice president of community relations for the last 20 years.
In addition to his role with the hospital, he has served, and continues to serve, on as many as 24 different state and local nonprofit boards, including the Kalispell, Columbia Falls, Whitefish, Polson, and Lakeside/Somers chambers of commerce, Kalispell and Whitefish Rotary clubs, and the United Way.
“His involvement with what seems like every organization in the valley is unparalleled by any other member of this community,” one of the people who nominated Oliverson for the Great Chief award said in the application.
“Whatever the cause, whatever the reason-yes was always his main word,” and “Jim was always the person that kept a steady hand on the tiller in the community, which was often not a very easy thing to do,” other nominators said.
Oliverson embodies the type of leader who steers organizations from the background and is modest about recognition.
Businesswoman of the Year: Pam Carbonari of Carbonari Associates, Inc., Kalispell Downtown Association, Kalispell Business Improvement District
Carbonari is described as being “everything for Kalispell, every time” by her nominators for this award. The current director of the Kalispell Downtown Association and Kalispell Business Improvement District, Carbonari has been instrumental in attracting new businesses to downtown Kalispell and bringing the community together through programs like Thursday!Fest, Taste of Kalispell and the Artwalk.
In addition to her work, Carbonari holds community support positions on boards and committees such as Flathead CARE, the Museum at Central School, the Hockaday Museum, and the Flathead Food Pantry. She is the former mayor of Kalispell and has served nearly 20 other organizations over the last 30 years.
Businessman of the Year: Travis Sallee of Loren’s Auto Repair
Since taking on the role of director of operations seven years ago for his family business, Loren’s Auto Repair, Travis Sallee has doubled the production and revenue of the company, hired several additional employees, and has built the auto shop’s reputation as one of the best in the Flathead.
Sallee is currently the president/chair of the Job Service Employers Council, which helps bridge the gaps between employers and state job services. He is also actively working with Flathead Valley Community College to develop an automotive apprenticeship program from the ground up after recognizing the need for advanced training and education required in the rapidly changing automotive repair industry.
Described as “having a big heart and deep conviction about serving his community,” Sallee started a program called Wheels To Thrive, where Loren’s Auto Repair takes good-quality, used vehicles, fixes them up, and gives them away to deserving individuals in the community at no cost to the new owner. He also spends his time volunteering for the Samaritan House and is an active member of the Flathead County Sheriff’s Posse.
Outstanding Contribution by a Chamber Member: Mike Nye, of Applied Materials PPC Business Unit
Nye served as the chairman of the Kalispell Manufacturer’s Alliance, a division of the Kalispell Chamber, since 2015. During his time in charge, he helped grow the group’s signature event Flathead Manufacturing Month from a three-week program to a full schedule of manufacturing events that spans nearly two entire months.