The Key to Successful Rural Communities


I’m looking forward to my 42nd birthday at the end of the month. It feels like it was just the other day that I was 14 and riding my bike to the brand new convenient store in my home town to get half priced fountain drinks during happy hour.

I felt fortunate to grow up in Grant, NE and graduate with a senior class of 30. I had amazing teachers, the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities, and felt I lived in a vibrant small town with multiple active service organizations.

Since growing up in Grant, I’ve taught in Big Springs, NE (population 390) and Cozad, NE (population 3,815). I also worked in community college administration in Sterling, CO (population 13,961) and McCook, NE (population 7,540).

I still return to my hometown of Grant to visit family, but something has changed. There are fewer students in the school, the farms are larger, more businesses are owned by people from out of town, and people question the future of the community.

It is a question that faces many of our rural communities. As infrastructure gets more expensive, and the draws of urban areas provide more employment and amenities, what will happen to our rural communities?

In the last year, I left my position as the Campus Vice President of McCook Community College to become the McCook Economic Development Corporation Director. I’ve also had the opportunity to join the board of the McCook Community Foundation Fund and see rural communities who are having success in growing their communities.

What has made the difference? For me, the difference is local leadership. There are communities that have fostered a leadership culture and have been successful in combining the experience of veteran community leaders with the energy of younger leaders. This investment in leadership has paid dividends to help local businesses thrive along with pushing community initiatives forward and providing hope.

This is exciting to me as I’ve always been passionate about leadership. Whether it was serving as student council president, head coach of a basketball team, training manager in a corporation, or as a higher education administrator, I have always studied and tried to improve my leadership.

Through this blog, I hope to share things I’ve learned and tried and provide practical tips to grow your leadership along with the leadership capacity of your organization. I also plan to spotlight communities where local leaders are making a difference. I encourage you to subscribe and receive my blog posts that will come out a couple times a month.