What does it mean to be a community leader?

A group of students in Grades 5-8 learned a little bit about that Oct. 23 at First Presbyterian Church in Redwood Falls as part of the Youth, Faith and Action program at the church.

That night at the church, several community leaders, including Anne Johnson, Redwood Area Chamber director, Tom Quackenbush, Redwood Falls mayor, Jason Cotner, Redwood Falls police chief, Jeff Bommersbach, Redwood Falls fire chief, and Keith Muetzel, Redwood Falls city administrator, talked about their leadership roles within the community.

According to Scott Prouty, First Presbyterian Church pastor, the intent of the event was to provide youth with some exposure to those who lead their community.

“We want the kids to live out their faith by serving others,” said Prouty.

Prouty added not only did they talk about what they do in their roles as leaders but also why they do it.

Without exception, the five who spoke shared that their decision to serve in their roles was about serving others and making a difference in their community.

Johnson said leadership roles are not limited to those represented by the five who were on the panel. There are many volunteer opportunities in the community, as well as clubs and organizations to which individuals can belong that provide opportunities to lead and to serve.

Quackenbush also encouraged the students to get involved in leadership roles while they are still in school, adding, as an example, that could mean serving as captain of a sports team.

That could also mean being in the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts and later serving in capacities such as on a church board later in life, added Muetzel.

Leadership and service opportunities exist in the community on many levels, said Muetzel, adding it is through city leadership that so much of what happens in the community is possible. Muetzel said whether it is the electricity used to power the lights in school or the water they drink, every day the students’ lives are being touched by leadership decisions that are made at the community level.

At times there are opportunities to climb the leadership ladder in the community, as is the case with Cotner and Bommersbach. Cotner, who started in law enforcement as an officer, came to Redwood Falls as the police department’s assistant chief and was then named police chief. Bommersbach, who has been a member of the city’s volunteer fire department for 18 years, also served in other department leadership roles before becoming the fire chief. 

In some cases, community leadership roles are in addition to a person’s job.

Quackenbush serves as mayor for the city, but his full-time job is as the plant manager for the Daktronics manufacturing facility in the community.

Bommersbach serves as the assistant engineer for the Redwood County highway department.

Muetzel encouraged the students to get involved in their community, adding for him it is not about getting credit for accomplished tasks, but it is knowing he is doing something to make the lives of someone else better.

Cotner and Bommersbach said there are times as leaders when you have to get involved in less than ideal situations. For Bommersbach, encounters with people are often happening at very hard times, but he knows even in those situations he is doing what he can to help people.

Cotner added as a department leader his role also means being able to create an environment where those he leads can be effective in performing their tasks.

Johnson said leadership roles can lead to a job, as is the case with her. During her time as a stay-at-home mom, Johnson said she had the chance to get involved in various volunteer groups, and her presence in those roles led others to encourage her to consider her role at the Chamber.

“The moral is that everything you do matters,” said Johnson.

Prouty said the leaders made a positive impression on the youth, adding it is his hope that they become leaders who put others above themselves and who serve without hesitation doing whatever God calls them to do in the future.