I would like to start by congratulating the 40 Leaders Under Forty Class of 2015! Your list of accomplishments and the impact you’ve had on people’s lives so early in your careers is nothing short of amazing. I would encourage everyone to continue down your path of service and leadership throughout your careers and lives.
Typically, when you think about leaders and leadership, visions of highly visible, Type-A personalities come to mind. But many leaders do not fit this stereotype, and actually lead their organizations faithfully for many years without much recognition. I would like to focus this column on several such leaders who make a big difference in Tazewell County—without the fanfare. They have spent countless hours leading their organizations and are among the reasons our county is so successful.
For more than 40 years, Jerry Zuercher has been involved in emergency services and management in Tazewell County. Although part of paid EMA [Emergency Management Agency] staff now, most of his years were spent volunteering with the agency and overseeing nearly 30 other volunteers, who also gave generously of their time. A Tremont resident and father of six grown children, he first got involved because of his interest in amateur radio and a desire to serve the community. During dangerous storms and blizzards, or while conducting search-and-rescue missions for missing people, he and his group of volunteers are called into service to help protect all the citizens of the county. Though not flashy, Jerry’s leadership impacts us all.
The second example focuses on two individuals, one retired and one now overseeing the organization. Mike Hutchinsen and Jim Thompson are the current and retired CEOs of We Care, a Morton-based nonprofit organization that provides transportation to seniors and handicapped individuals throughout unincorporated Tazewell County. This vital service allows many people to remain independent under some difficult circumstances. Both men have consistently demonstrated the humility and devotion that is commonly seen in servant leaders. In addition to more than 80,000 rides they gave last year, they also maintain a food pantry and a Meals on Wheels program. Overseeing both paid staff and volunteers so successfully and consistently shows what great leadership looks like.
I could cite hundreds of examples of leaders in our region who do what they do because of a desire to do the right things and serve those around them—not for the glory, but for the satisfaction of leading well. All of us can lead in big and small ways; at work, within our family, our church or our community, there are always opportunities to serve and lead. I would like to end with a quote from the Chinese poet and philosopher, Lao Tzu, who said: A leader is best when people barely knows he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say—we did it ourselves. iBi