Mary Ellen Domeier, 50 years of business, volunteering

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt Mary Ellen Domeier continues to stay busy, volunteering her time and expertise.

NEW ULM — Few women in New Ulm have a resume as impressive as Mary Ellen Domeier.

Her career in finance and community organizing began in 1965 working part-time for the New Ulm Area Chamber and over the next five decades, she would become the CEO of Frandsen Bank and later serve as a consultant or board member for dozens of businesses and organizations. To this day, Domeier continues to volunteer her time and expertise to worthy causes.

“I can’t let it go,” she said of her community work. “It’s my fourth kid.”

Mary Ellen Domeier was born and raised in New Ulm. She attended St. Mary’s Grade School and later graduated from Cathedral High School in 1959.

Domeier said while a high school student she dreamed of getting a college degree, move to New York and work for a publishing company as a manuscript reader. However, after high school graduation, her life took a different path. Domeier decided to marry her high school sweetheart, Robert. Together they had three children; Phillip, Anita and Joseph.Though she paused her edu-cation to start a family, Domeier would eventually attend college through the support of her family. Her husband Robert pushed her to pursue a degree in business around the time their children reached school age. She said Robert was always one of her top supporters.

Domeier said her interest in business and finance was piqued after working part-time with the New Ulm Chamber. From 1965 to 1971, she worked as an assistant manager to Hazel Meine. Meine was one of the few women chamber executives in the state and was a role model to Domeier.

“She was an engine that kept the train on the track,” she said of Meine. Through her work at the Chamber, she became interested in the New Ulm business community. In 1971, she took on a position at Frandsen Bank & Trust as executive secretary.

“At that time not a lot of women were moving into the other roles at the bank,” Domeier said.

Domeier accepted this position with the understanding that she would be attending college and if a position opened for which she was qualified, she would be considered.

With the support of the bank, she took part in on-the-job training. She eventually learned all the department roles at the bank.

As for her college classes, Frandsen was willing to cover the cost of any program related to business or finance.

Domeier said when she returned to college it was a time of great change. She said women’s studies and women’s issues were at the forefront.

“In that era, programs were designed to make it easier — not just for women — but for anyone to advance by combining and interfacing your career work with the classroom,” Domeier said. “That was very helpful for me.”

She would, graduate Summa cum Laude from Minnesota State University with a business administration degree in 1985. Three years after graduating, Domeier was named CEO of Frandsen Bank. She would serve as CEO until retiring in 2003. Though she has been retired for over 20 years, Domeier continued to help part-time with other businesses and organizations.It is difficult to find an area of New Ulm life in which Domeier has not had an impact. She remains humble about her work, saying that after 50 years of working, it’s hard not to leave a mark on the community.

Domeier said in her consulting and volunteer work, her passions are economic development and housing. These causes are important to her.

Today, Domeier is typically connected with the State Street Theater Company (SSTC). She became associated with the theater as a way to promote housing. There was a desire to convert the former middle school classrooms into apartments. The classroom section of the SSTC building was eventually developed into Emerson Union Apartments. The auditorium section of the building was split off into SSTC. Domeier continues to work with the theater and other organizations; such as the New Ulm Diocese and New Ulm Area Foundation.

Looking over the last 50 years, Domeier is optimistic about the progress made by women.

“Younger women may not think there has been a lot of progress,” she said. “But for someone who has seen progress over 50 years, we’ve come a long way.”

Domeier is still concerned about the gender pay gap. To this day she questions if, as bank president, she was being compensated the same as her male counterparts. She has seen progress on the pay gap on the board and organization she served, but she is uncertain if other companies have achieved pay equity.

Domeier said that pushing for gender equality takes two things: creating awareness and women demonstrating they can do the work. Domeier said she took the approach of doing by example.

“The goal is to do the best you can,” she said. “My mother used to say if it’s worth doing, it is worth doing well.”


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