Thrusting his hand out in warm handshake, he smiles broadly. “Hi, I’m Harold Viehweg. Thanks for all you do for the community.”
That is a pretty typical greeting most people get when they meet Viehweg in his tightly-organized, uncluttered ground-floor office in the Prescott Chamber of Commerce building on Goodwin Street.
Not everyone who enters the Prescott C of C sees Viehweg, for his office is at the rear of the tall skinny two-story building. However, Viehweg has been a chamber official more than one-fourth of the 80 years the C of C has served members, visitors and the community. He joined the organization in 1992, when he took a job there as an accountant.
Originally from South Dakota, where he earned his degree in business administration at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, Viehweg and his wife, Dottie, and their two daughters moved to Phoenix in 1965. He has worked almost his entire career as an accountant, financial manager or business coordinator. In 1992, when he and his wife moved to Prescott to own and operate the Victorian-style bed and breakfast known as The Mark’s House, he applied for and was accepted a position at the chamber.
“I’ve always enjoyed working with business and financial matters,” he said matter-of-factly. “Hard to believe I’ve survived all the way from pencil and paper accounting through IBM punch cards into sophisticated computerized technological wizardry.”
Viehweg accounts for more than half a million dollars that come through the chamber each year. Beyond that, he handles the bookkeeping for the Chamber of Commerce Foundation, too, which requires a distinctly different accounting process.
But Viehweg’s involvements go far beyond keeping track of numbers. He helps coordinate the annual Christmas Parade, which requires months of detailed planning and plotting. Equally challenging is annual fund-gathering for the traditional Christmas Courthouse Lighting. He works with the annual Bluegrass Festival, which brings thousands to Prescott for a unique music experience.
“We’ve so many activities where we work with the greater community that I really have to keep a careful list of everything – Labor Day, the Territorial Festival in June, Memorial Day and Fall Festival in October. And morning and evening monthly mixers, ribbon cuttings, arts and crafts shows and often special seasonal projects – all take time,” he explained.
He says he’s regularly surprised at how efficiently the chamber functions with only four full-time staff members and several part-time personnel. He credits much of the chamber’s success to “an exceptionally dedicated team of volunteers who give freely and willingly of their time and talent.”
Viehweg reports directly to Sheri Heiney, CEO and president of the 850-member organization. “What gratifies me is that despite the diverse activities and programs we’re always involved in, we rarely have problems or conflicts. We, at the chamber, owe thanks to a lot of people,” he said.
One of Viehweg’s colleagues is Visitor Information Center Manager Robert Coombs. Coombs interacts with up to 30,000 visitors annually, many of whom are out of state or international guests. “I’ve worked closely with Harold for more than 12 years,” said Coombs. “He’s one of the most dedicated, committed and friendly people I can think of, especially about community matters. He’s involved in so many activities and programs. He’s really a team player, too, and works well with everyone.”
Viehweg’s is a passionate supporter of performing and fine arts throughout the community, including the Yavapai Symphony Association and the Central Arizona Concert Band support group.
For years, too, he has been an active member of the Prescott POPS Symphony Orchestra School Grants Committee. Through funds raised from contributions and gate receipts from POPS concerts, Viehweg and other committee members annually distribute grants to Quad Cities schools, which have instrumental music programs. That process requires considerable time in solicitation and consequent review of applications to determine grant amounts and recipients.
Since he first moved to Prescott from Phoenix in 1992, Viehweg has been involved in one way or another in the Prescott United Methodist Church. “Harold has been volunteering at our church for years,” said PUMC minister, The Rev. Dan Hurlbert. “He sings in the Chancel Choir, rings bells in the bell choir, and is a part of the financial leadership team. He spends part of every week signing checks and auditing the cash flow to the church. He’s often overlooked because he’s so quiet. But believe me, his efforts are important and appreciated.”
Hurlbert’s praise is echoed by PUMC music director Jacob Gilbert. He especially lauded Viehweg’s faithfulness at every rehearsal and performance in the various groups with which he performs. “Harold is one of the most dependable persons I know,” Gilbert said.
What the best advice you’ve ever received?
“When I was just a kid, my dad told me, ‘Always tell the truth.’ That advice stuck, and I follow it daily.”
If you could vacation anywhere in the world, where would it be?
“I’d love to go to London and the United Kingdom. I’ve never been there, but I’m fascinated by the history, tradition and culture. I’d really like to visit my granddaughter who lives in London.”
What character trait do you most admire in colleagues and associates?
“No hesitation there. Honesty and integrity.”
What really annoys you?
“Seriously? Being interrupted when I am really busy at some intense task.”
What actor is going to play your role when they make a TV show or movie about you?
“I hope it could be Steve Carrell, who seems like a really nice guy who never offends anybody.”
By Ray Newton, QCBN