Amber and Randy Burge both grew up in rural farming communities, where they were raised with a strong sense of family and community. Those values have helped mold them into the parents and professionals they are today, and the community of Gothenburg is reaping those rewards.
Amber lived on a farm near Riverton and attended school in Franklin, where she participated in sports, FFA, band and other activities. “I loved life on the farm, and the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities that I likely would not have done if I had lived in a larger school/community,” said Amber.
Randy also has fond memories of small town life and was very active in his school. He grew up in Madrid and attended Wheatland High School, which has since consolidated with Perkins County Schools. “I had a very small graduating class of only five people, and only about 40 in the whole high school. In fact, we once did an exchange program with Omaha North high school,” Randy recalled. “They sent their student council to Madrid for a couple of days to see what life was like in a small town. We sent our entire high school to them - and we all fit on one bus. I honestly think it was more of a culture shock for the Omaha kids, then it was for most of us.”
“I still have fond memories of Madrid…the people are hardworking and helpful to their neighbors, yet things seem like they move at a little slower pace there,” Randy added.
By the time they graduated from high school, both Randy and Amber had made the decision to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Randy says his educational and career path had been determined many years prior. “Quite honestly, from the time I was a young child, I wanted to be a veterinarian. Growing up in the 80’s, there was an influx of high birth weight Charolais and Simmental genetics, so I would make my dad promise to wake me up if he had to call the veterinarian out to do a c-section or to pull a calf in the middle of the night—which was quite often at that time,” he explained.
Amber, on the other hand, found an unexpected interest in a different career field than she had chosen and found herself changing directions as a college student. “I originally thought I wanted to be a physical therapist, but I eventually declared my major as agribusiness. I chose agribusiness because I wanted a business degree to fall back on and the agribusiness degree had many of the science requirements I had to take for pre-PT,” Amber said. “I ended up falling in love with the agribusiness program and realized how much I enjoy the agriculture community.”
While in college Amber had an internship with Valmont Industries and went on to work for that company when she graduated. She also attended UNO while working and earned her master’s degree.
Amber now works in marketing at Flatwater Bank. “My job is a lot of fun. I work to showcase our bank and all of the great things we do,” said Amber. “I’m absolutely convinced that the reason Gothenburg is thriving and my hometown isn’t as much, has a lot to do with the local banks. I’m not saying that because I work in banking. But, I truly think that if you have a local bank invested in and working to make your community successful it makes a huge difference. My hometown did not have that. Gothenburg is blessed to have two local banks working to make the community strong and I’m really proud to be a part of that.”
Randy has achieved his veterinary dream and is co-owner of Eastside Animal Center. “There are a lot of things I love about my job. First and foremost, it allows me to help not only animals, but people too,” said Randy. “I am fortunate to be part of a mixed animal clinic that helps our small animal clients keep their furry family members healthy, and I am able to help our food animal clients produce the world’s best beef from resources that would not otherwise be able to be utilized. I enjoy being able to help them make financial decisions that hopefully will allow them to meet their goals and pass on the farming and ranching heritage to the next generation. We couldn’t run our business without having the wonderful staff and clientele that we do. I enjoy the fact that there is a lot of variety with my job - no two days at the clinic are the same.”
Randy and Amber both say they love what they do, and love their life in Gothenburg. It is a life that may not have happened, were it not for a chance encounter while traveling. “We like to joke that today a lot of people meet on the internet, but instead we met on the interstate,” said Amber.
“I like to say that Amber and I met on the interstate the day before my vet school interview. She fell madly in love with me, and the rest is history. She might have a different version of that, but that is the story I’m sticking with,” Randy laughed.
Amber recounts the day as she remembers it. “It was spring break and we were both driving back to UNL in separate cars with friends. We passed at some point, probably around Sutherland and continued to pass and see each other’s cars as we made the trek down the interstate,” Amber recalled. “Around Kearney, one of the guys in Randy’s car held up a sign asking where we were going. We said UNL and they said UNL. The passengers continued to hold up signs with questions, and we would answer them as we passed by. As we pulled into Lincoln, a message was held up about meeting at a local college hangout later that night. It just happened that I had a birthday party there that night so we all met there and the rest is history (despite Randy’s version!)”
Add two teenagers on top of the full-time work schedules, and the Burge home is one busy place. Jake is a 15-year-old freshman, and Taylor, a seventh grader, will turn 14 in May.
“Things tend to get a little busy around our house, as it does for most families. But we make it work with lots of help from our family, friends, and co-workers. Our kids would have been pretty messed up if it were left solely up to Amber and I to raise them!,” Randy joked. “In all seriousness, Amber and I’s goal in raising our kids has always been to raise them to be independent and to be able to support themselves and to give back to others. Hopefully we meet our goal - only time will tell.”
“I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to be home with the kids when they were young,” Amber added. “We also are very blessed that both our jobs (and Randy’s cow hobby) have really allowed us to involve our children in what we do.”
Amber said at the time the kids were young they did not have grandparents who lived close, so Sue Ostergard helped fill the role as Grandma Sue.
“We have been blessed by making the decision to come to Gothenburg. The support system we have here is truly amazing,” said Amber. “We have friends and neighbors who are like second parents to our kids (our kids joke they are the better parents), numerous families who would dump anything they are doing to help in an instant and a great church family.
“We often laugh about the time I had to be to church early and Randy was in charge of the kids,” she continued. “He did make it to church but carefully selected who he sat by and quickly asked them to help do Taylor’s hair! We could tell so many stories of instances when friends, neighbors, or co-workers have picked up the slack and helped us out.”
Randy did not disagree with Amber’s assessment. “I have to give the credit to Amber. She really is the glue that keeps our household together and keeps things running smoothly. When she’s gone, I think I rely on the kids to know what is going on, more than they rely on me.”
The family loves being outdoors and staying active by spending time at the lake during the summer, and backpacking whenever they can. Randy’s cow herd takes up a great deal of his spare time, and Amber said the pandemic and school closure this year has had an interesting effect on that - and has actually produced a silver lining.
“Although it’s an extremely busy time for him right now, this year’s calving season has probably been the least stressful since the kids were born,” she said. “This year, instead of juggling or missing out on kids activities, the whole family has been able to get involved in checking cows and tagging babies. We don’t live on the farm, so checking heifers in the middle of the night has never really involved the kids, but this year Taylor experienced this for the first time.”
Being involved in the community is also something both Randy and Amber take seriously. “Giving back to others is a core belief that Amber and I share, and one that we have tried to instill in our kids. I am a believer that you should try to improve anything you own or live in - it could be a piece of land, a business, a neighborhood or town,” said Randy.
Amber said her experience with some of the adults in her hometown has helped shape her perspective on her community involvement, as well as what she wants to instill in her children. “I grew up having the adults around me encourage me to get away…as if moving away would be better for me. I don’t ever want my kids to think they need to move away to experience a great way of life. I want to work hard to make sure that the things I’m involved in make Gothenburg a community my kids can return to.”
Amber currently serves on the GIC board as well as the Gothenburg YMCA Board of Directors. She also served eight years on the Gothenburg School Board and was a founding member of the Gothenburg Early Childhood Learning Coalition.
Randy currently sits on the Community Redevelopment Authority board, is a member of the Gothenburg Rotary Club and helps out with youth sports as a volunteer coach. He has also served on the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Teammates Board and Nebraska Veterinary Medicine Board. The family attends the United Methodist Church where both Amber and Randy have been very active, serving on numerous committees and various church boards.
“I think we like Gothenburg so much because it is progressive and always trying to move forward,” said Randy. “Gothenburg is pretty special and all one has to do is drive around and look at the pride the community takes in itself.”