2009 Civic Award Winner Mal Hepburn

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Friends, family, supporters and board members of the Greater Cedarburg Community Foundation filled the Cedarburg Cultural Center on February 19th as Mal Hepburn was honored as recipient of the 2009 Civic Award. The event, held annually to honor an outstanding contributor to Cedarburg’s vitality, put the spotlight on the many contributions and talents of Mal Hepburn, past president and one of the founding members of the Foundation.More than 275 people attended the event, which included a “State of the Foundation” report from current chairman Bob Chmielewski. “Mal has made many contributions to the community over the years – both as a business leader and as a civic supporter,” Chmielewski said. “We honor him for making a difference in so many ways and tonight is just a small attempt to say thank you to this wonderful man.” Among the hundreds in attendance were all of the past civic award recipients, including Merlin Rostad, Carl Edquist, Ralph Huiras, Bob Armbruster, Ed Rappold, and Don and Janet Levy.Mal Hepburn was first introduced to Cedarburg in 1968 when he came from Milwaukee to see a movie at the Rivoli Theater. He loved the historic nature of the town as well as the charitable nature of its citizens. At that time, Hepburn was working for the former First Wisconsin bank. During his time there, he realized he wanted to start his own venture. “Working as a banker, you see your business customers building up equity in their businesses and you come to the realization you don’t get that unless you build a business for yourself,” he said. He began the process of studying different communities in which to locate a bank, and in 1975, he opened Ozaukee Bank in a small renovated farmhouse on Columbia Road in Cedarburg.He worked at growing the business for ten years before he opened the first branch in Mequon in 1985. The bank thrived and continued to grow, and soon branches in Grafton, Port Washington, and Thiensville were opened. “We had critical mass of branch banks which allowed us to afford to have good financial people and a team of good lenders. A small bank can’t do that so easily,” he said, crediting the bank’s success to its employees. “The neatest thing about the bank was the staff of people we had, and that’s what banking is all about.”  Last year, the bank was sold to Harris Bank from Chicago. “Harris brings to us a Midwestern-based bank that is very well capitalized,” he said. “They have 10.7 percent capital ratio and that’s exceptional in this day and age.”Hepburn did more than build a successful business in the community; he became involved in many civic activities and has been a key supporter of historic preservation. He has supported the Boy Scouts, chaired the annual fund drive for the Riveredge Nature Center and served as a trustee for Ozaukee Congregational Church. Perhaps he is best known as one of the key leaders of the Greater Cedarburg Community Foundation. As its second President, Hepburn was quoted as saying that “civic improvement is our sole reason for being.” He oversaw the first major fundraiser in 2002, which resulted in more than 44 people each contributing $10,000 to launch the Foundation’s charitable efforts. The effort surpassed expectations when the Greater Milwaukee Foundation contributed $100,000 for a total of $544,000. Among the first recipients of funds were the Kuhefuss House Garden restoration project, the Wisconsin Quilt Museum, and the Cedarburg Performing Arts Center Inc. Shortly after the goal was reached, Hepburn was quoted as saying, “Our success is not due to any one of us, but rather to the affection that the people of Cedarburg exhibit towards their town.” During his time as president and past president of the Foundation, Hepburn continued to work as an aggressive fundraiser, and in 2004 he helped to raise more than $330,000 to pay off the mortgage of the Cedarburg Cultural Center.

“Carl Edquist hit it right on the nose when he said that Mal’s fingerprints and footprints are all over Cedarburg,” said Jim Coutts, Foundation past president and chair of the event. “There’s been very little in this community that Mal hasn’t been involved with. The size of the crowd is a tribute to what he has done for the community.”

Among the hundreds in attendance at the February 2009 award ceremony were all of the past civic award recipients, including Merlin Rostad, Carl Edquist, Ralph Huiras, Bob Armbruster, Ed Rappold, and Don and Janet Levy.