EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in a three-part series about powerful people in the mid-valley. Previous installments have featured interviews with some of the people atop our list of mid-valley power players and a report on progress women have made in terms of achieving positions of power and influence.
Today’s installment looks at people who are rising in influence in the mid-valley.
The next generation of leaders for the mid-valley is worried about striking the right balance between work and personal life — but still deeply committed to making a difference in the community.
That’s the conclusion from interviews the Gazette-Times conducted last week with people identified as rising leaders throughout the mid-valley.
“We all care about the places we live — we want to live in whole, healthy, thriving places,” said Jennifer Butler, associate minister at First Congregational United Church of Christ. “And we are willing to be involved in creating such places.”
Said Wyatt King, who works at RKI Insurance in Lebanon: “The community helped raise me. I want to give back.”
After the G-T surveyed people to create a list of the mid-valley’s most powerful people, a quick look at the list showed that almost all the names were people in their 40s and beyond.
So we launched a second survey, asking participants to identify rising leaders — people who seem like good bets to land on future editions of the list. (For a full list of the up-and-comers, see the related story.)
In follow-up interviews with some of those up-and-comers, a common theme emerged: A desire to get involved in their communities.
But they also talked about the difficulty of striking the right balance between work, community, family and personal lives — challenges made tougher by the fact that some of them have just started their own families.
Peter Walker is the regional branch services manager for Linn, Benton and Lincoln counties for OSU Federal Credit Union in Corvallis and spent time at the credit’s union’s Lebanon branch, where he was involved in the Chamber of Commerce and other organizations.
He said he hasn’t found it particularly difficult to get involved with community organizations, but admitted that “It’s a balancing act at times.“
Right now, said Walker, he has to focus on the learning the ropes of a relatively new job: “It’s taken 110 percent of my focus to grow into this position.”
The competing priorities of work and family responsibilities are important issues facing rising leaders who want to deepen their engagement in the communities.
Curtis Wright is the board chairman for Leadership Corvallis, one of the mid-valley organizations that works to groom and educate the next generation of community leadership. (Albany and Lebanon have similar organizations.)
“It’s a challenge for younger adults these days because there are so many demands on their time,” he said.
But there’s a waiting list for slots with Leadership Corvallis, and the same is true for Leadership Albany. Janet Steele is president of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors Leadership Albany. She said people in mid-valley communities understand the need.
“I think there are more opportunities now than ever before,” she said. “We’re very impressed by the number of people who consistently give of their talents.”
Walker, of OSU Federal Credit Union, and Butler, of First Congregational, identified a pair of other potential issues for rising community leaders.
Walker urged community organizations to take a close look at their structures to make sure that younger members can assume meaningful positions within them. It’s not unusual, he said, for organizations to push newer members into roles where they are “thanklessly paying their dues.”
And Butler said it was important for organizations seeking new blood to work to align their goals with the passions of potential new volunteers.
Here’s Butler’s advice to those organizations: Begin with “describing the possibilities alongside the problems the organization faces, placing a high value on my time while simultaneously inviting me to make a serious commitment of accountability, describing what I might specifically contribute by naming gifts, and letting me know how this opportunity contributes to the overall well-being of the greater community. If an organization approached me in such a way, asking me to give my time to volunteer work, I would be highly unlikely to decline the invitation.”
Passion is a critical component for Dan Rayfield, an Albany attorney and frequent Corvallis volunteer: “I think for most folks, you have to have a desire to do something. You have to have passion.”
“I got to this Earth with a certain amount of gas in the tank,” Rayfield said in explanation of the desire to give to the community. “And when I leave, I want to leave it with more gas.”