“I live in Shorewood, not far from where I grew up,” says Laura Hotvet. We spoke with the executive director of the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Chamber of Commerce about her role in the community and her deep, deep roots here. And for Hotvet, it all comes back to that sense of small-town unity. “I love the walkable community. I love to know my neighbors. I love to know what’s going on,” she says. “I’m always involved in something.”
That might just be the understatement of the year where Hotvet is concerned. She took on the role as executive director of the chamber in 2012, which puts her right at the center of the goings-on in Excelsior and the surrounding area, including Shorewood, Deephaven and Tonka Bay. Even before she stepped into the official gig, she was heavily involved. “I was always volunteering for everything I could, coaching, on boards, on the council for my church, doing lots of stuff in the community,” she says. As we talk, Hotvet’s deep love for her community shines through in every word she says, and it’s obvious that, if something needs to get done in town, she’d never be able to sit idle.
The major events on her life’s timeline point to her connections in the lake area. She grew up in Tonka Bay and graduated in 1985 from Minnetonka High School (so did her husband Dean, though they were just friends during their school years). She graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in education and taught for two years in Madrid, Spain. After getting her graduate degree in special education and teaching for a few more years stateside, she launched her own large-scale event planning company, which allowed some flexibility as she and her husband raised their kids Jack (23) and Gretta (20) in Shorewood. “I did that for 16 years while my kids were growing up,” she says. “And then the [job opened] at the chamber, and it was working with the community where I grew up—where I had been a sixth grader, roaming the mean streets of Excelsior between confirmation and choir practice,” she jokes. “The job is a good combination of all the things that sort of invigorate me, motivate me and make me feel like a useful member of my community.”
What does Hotvet love the most about the lake area? “I think we tend to be a pretty laid-back community, believe it or not,” she says. “Honestly, it’s the kind of place where you can go to the grocery store in your pajamas. It’s just one of those special places—a small town within a big city.” And she says she continues to be floored by the willingness of neighbors to pitch in when help is needed. “We have such an engaged group of residents who are always willing to volunteer,” Hotvet says. “It could be the Fourth of July, Art on the Lake, Luck o’ the Lake, Apple Day … We are always so amazed at the people who step in to help. It’s such a cool community.”
Hotvet has helped guide Excelsior through the last decade, business-wise, and says the community’s heavy dose of independent, owner-operated shops and eateries has helped it thrive. “That’s one of the reasons this area is so special. You go into a place of business here, and you most likely will meet the owner themselves and learn their story,” she says. She’s optimistic about the future, too. “The new generation—the young families and couples, the baby boomers who are downsizing—they’re all looking for the same things that have consistently kept this area vibrant," she says.
Hotvet herself is certainly in it for the long haul, and she wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. “It’s been a pretty good life so far,” she says with a smile.
The Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Chamber of Commerce moved into a new space this spring in the Excelsior Mill Building. Visit the welcome center there, and learn more at excelsior-lakeminnetonkachamber.com.