11/14/2013 3:00:00 PM Life after Graduation: Alicia Kamholz Mertz
by Connie Bickman
Note: This column features "hometown folks," specifically Cannon Falls and Randolph High School graduates - of any year - and their unique or interesting careers and lives since high school. If you know of anyone you feel would make an interesting feature, email firstname.lastname@example.org - their email address must be included.
Alicia Kamholz Mertz, Cannon Falls class of 1998, always wanted to be an architect. Although she hasn't attained that goal yet, she graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.S. in Interior Design. Studying the interior aspects of buildings and using her people skills and artistic abilities landed her designing jobs that eventually lead to her current occupation. Her job description is Pipe Take-off Tech, at County Materials Corporation, a resource for concrete construction and landscape products. Working in their Roberts, Wisconsin branch, Alicia uses CAD (Computer Aided Design) to draw manholes and other pipe/concrete structures.
"What I like best about working in the concrete pipe business, and this company in particular, is that I feel my skills fit here - organization, CAD drafting, and problem solving. I also get to work with a lot of great guys."
The daughter of Barb and Chuck Kamholz, Alicia grew up in rural Cannon Falls "around a bunch of boys," and said she had to stand up for herself and be tough. "While participating in the youth programs, like the Cannon Falls Youth Athletic Association, I played on the boy's baseball teams. It made me a stronger player and a stronger person. I feel I got the respect I deserved from the other players, because I worked harder at it."
Alicia said she also entertained herself quite a bit, being innovative and organizing the world around her. "I drew little cities for my brother, Nick, for his Hotwheel cars, and designed mansions for me to live in."
Some of Alicia's fondest memories of Cannon Falls are just driving around with friends when there was nothing to do. "Cannon Falls has many scenic roads!" she quips.
Her brother, Nick, 31, lives in South St. Paul and is working to get to the professional level in Disc Golf. Alicia's local grandparents were the late Ralph and Lucy Becker of Hampton.
As far as choosing a career, Alicia said, "I always had my parents' support in anything I chose. I know they realized that I had 'talent' - Mom's words, not mine, but I don't think any of us knew what direction it would go.
In high school, a couple of guys (Nick Tennessen and Matt Sand), and I were going to start a business.We had similar interests and different talents, but the business never happened. Still, I believe it 'fueled the fire' in wanting to really succeed."
After college, with degree in hand, Alicia went to California for a couple of years, but was still in "college-mode," and admits she learned a lot about growing up.
"I decided to come back to Minnesota and worked for companies where I learned to design homes, inside and out - from what kind of screws to use, to what kind of color and paint works best in a room. I always enjoyed the 'hands-on' process." She added, "The interesting thing is that as I stumbled through these jobs, I was gathering something more precious than work skills...I was finding a better sense of being...of being in a place where I wanted to be.
"The busier I am the better, and having a job keeps me sane. I like to keep my mind active. I think we all have to remember to balance everything in our life and finding that balance IS life."
Alicia strives to be an asset at her workplace in their organizations' efficiency and profitability, while at the same time enjoying her family. As for encouraging others, Alicia advises others to do something they are good at and enjoy it at the same time.
She adds, "I may have traveled a different road than expected, but I think I'm right where I should be for now. I've reached many of my goals...but still have some yet to strive for. It's an amazing world we live in with many interesting people."
Alicia and her husband, Chad Mertz, live in Woodbury. Chad is from Inver Grove Heights. They have a one-year-old son named Atreyu and are expecting another baby in early May. They also recently bought their first home - a dream of Alicia's since childhood.
"As far as the future, along with work, I want to be active with my kids and family life. All-in-all it's a pretty wonderful to be where I am now in life."