A surprise reception for Deb Biermann was held at the Katy Depot, 600 E. 3rd Street, on May 29, with dozens of well-wishers, Mo State Park officials, Depot employees, volunteers and friends attending the event.

It was made clear that Biermann, who is constantly busy with various projects with a variety of organizations across the City of Sedalia, was not retiring, but was rather undergoing a “reshuffling of assignments.”

The non-retirement party was hosted by CVB member Kyle Herrick, who unveiled that the museum inside the Katy Depot has been renamed the “Deb Biermann Exhibit Gallery” which was the “Lunch Room” back in the day when the Building served as an active train depot.

Biermann had no clue there was a party being thrown in her honor when she stepped into the Katy Depot like she's done over the past few decades.

“Deb is the glue that holds everything together,” Herrick said. “She is the most incredible, behind-the-scenes person I've ever been blessed to work beside. Notice I said beside, not with, she's right there with you in the trenches and she's unbelievable. I could go on for hours, telling each of you how special she is, but I know all of you already know that.

“I think back to the journey to make this building what it is today, and again, as you all know, she was determined to make it happen, and it did,” Herrick said during his speech praising Biermann.

Larry Melton then gave a seven-minute prepared speech. In his informative and clever speech, Melton noted how Biermann, a Smith-Cotton and State Fair Community College graduate, has devoted over 50 years of her life to public service to Sedalia and Missouri.

Melton noted that Bierman served as administrative assistant to two Sedalia mayors – Jerry Jones and Allen Hawkins.

Melton was in town for the 50th anniversary of the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival, which started Wednesday, May 29.

Connnie Patterson, communications director for the Missouri DNR, who also serves on the Sedalia Heritage Board, noted that when she approached DNR Director Drew Buttons and Missouri State Parks Director David Kelly, about renaming the Katy Depot's gallery in honor of Biermann, they both responded with a resounding yes.
“The great working relationship between the State and the Sedalia Heritage Foundation was forged and nurtured by Debra. I've known her all my life and she's always been one of my heroes … She's a living, breathing example of an outstanding public servant, someone who's dedicated her life work and career to making things better for others,” Patterson said.

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The condition of Katy Depot before it was remodeled was “horrible” according to former Chamber President Joe Fischer. There was a swimming pool in the basement, he recalled and rainwater damage was everywhere. “We didn't stop the water, we just managed it,” he said. “The word daunting really was an understatement. But Debie had a vision, and a plan. She helped pursue funding through the (Missouri) Department of Transportation, an enhancement act, which was around $450,000.”

Biermann also pursued funding through HUD and Kit Bond's office. “There was an additional matching grant of about $450,000, and of course countless hours of volunteers, along with (architect) George Esser, SBW Architects, Viebrock Construction and Ralph Bray.” Fischer recalled that Bray would constantly remind everyone this was a historical renovation, not a restoration.

“I can honestly say that without the vision and diligence and dedication of this amazing woman, we would not have this fabulous resource at our disposal. She made it happen. She has an amazing ability to develop a project with the keenest of insights and extraordinary organizational skills to keep it on track,” Fischer said of Biermann. “She's the consummate professional, always deflecting praise … well sorry, Deb, but you can no longer deflect the praise.”

A reception for Biermann was held just outside the gift shop following all the speeches. A cake featuring a photo of an old postcard of the Depot was served to guests.

In the top photo: Dianne Simon, Thompson Hills Investments President, chats with Deb Biermann, right, during a surprise "non-retirement" party held in Biermann's honor May 29 at the Katy Depot.

Deb Biermann non-retirement party

Gallery Credit: Randy Kirby

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