Monday, April 12, 2010

Parry: A Difference Maker

For the past 15 years, Howard has seen economic success behind the leadership of Rural Learning Center President Randy Parry. Parry will never take credit for any of the success. He considers himself just a facilitator.
However, those who know and have worked with the leader of one of the most successful small county turnarounds in South Dakota will tell you that Parry is a difference maker.
Long-time friend Tom Kilian said Parry brings great energy and tireless enthusiasm to the projects of the moment. “He is sincere, earnest, plainly committed, patient and forgiving. He likes people, is extroverted and friendly,” he said. “He processes quickly and connects the dots that many don’t even see. He is kind and socially concerned.”
Jim Beddow, who is working with Parry at the RLC, said Parry’s leadership and passion for the cause resulted from a conclusion that if he did not get involved his fingerprints would be on the decline of Miner County. “Secondly, and most importantly, he ultimately answered a "call" from within that he should make the move to leave a secure position at the school and lead this effort,” Beddow said. “In my view, he is the epitome of the power and possibility of transformational leadership.”
Pat Maroney said Parry is a difference maker because of the respect he has earned in all the endeavors he has chosen to do in his life. Maroney said that respect has been earned from hard work and a positive and confident attitude.
“Randy has built relationships with the students he taught, the athletes he coached and now with his peers at the Rural Learning Center. Randy's life is a vocation, not a job. The results speak for themselves.”
Parry was raised in Canistota in McCook County, where his father worked as a feed grinder traveling to farms in the area. He graduated from Canistota High School and then went on to the University of Sioux Falls, where he earned a degree in education and business economics. He landed at Howard in the fall of 1970 and continued teaching until 2000 when he helped launch the Miner County Community Revitalization, which today is called the Rural Learning Center.
Parry remembers the first endeavor in economic development involved the school district and the issues the students talked about that were confronting Miner County.
“It wasn’t just economic development. It was leadership. It was conversation,” Parry said. “It was an approach that was saying we have to come up with a strategic plan to grow and to transform Miner County.”
Since 1995, the Rural Learning Center has leveraged $74.1 million in infrastructure and jobs, created a diversified economy that includes wind energy and has developed an assisted living center, children’s care corner and negotiated and saved jobs for one of the largest industries in the county.
Parry said the road to change is not easy, it is sometimes messy work. “It is really difficult to be able to get communities that feel it is hopeless to take time and effort to create a plan for a positive, aesthetic change,” he said. “Sometimes you have to start small – like moving the stumps out of Fedora, but at the same time being strategic about bringing the grassroots of people together to say this is their plan. We are really acting as facilitators.”
Rebecca Mommaerts has been working with Parry for only a few months, but said it didn’t take long to see how truly dedicated Parry is to his community. “His work at the Rural Learning Center is more than just a job to him; it’s a life mission. He’s never off-the-clock; it seems like he’s always working to create and sustain jobs and homes in our community, during the day, at night, and even when he went on vacation recently,” she said. “It doesn’t take long for a person to become inspired when they are around Randy Parry. He works for what he believes in, and believes in his work. Miner County is lucky to have him.”
Tami Severson, who has been working for several years with Parry, said Parry is never afraid to bring key people together to discuss difficult or challenging issues. “When bringing these groups or organizations together he provides an open and honest atmosphere. When openness and honesty are present, and the meetings are about the issues themselves, innovative solutions can be revealed,” she said. “His ability to connect with people on a professional and personal level has built solid relationships with organizations, and most importantly, the people within organizations. People and organizations remember feeling like they were needed in these conversations because he believes they truly were.”

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