You play third French horn in the Philharmonic. Tell us a little bit about your music background and what you like most to play.
My dad came from a musical family; his father was a church choir director and he started out as a band director. His career took him to Interlochen, the world-famous arts camp and school in northern Michigan where he was the head of the school. Growing up in that environment, music and the arts surrounded me on a daily basis, and the “cool” kids were the ones that were really good in the arts. The French Horn worked well for me and so I practiced to get good. The French Horn got me to college in Dallas, and I moved forward from there. As far as what I most like to play, like most brass players, I like the big, loud late-Romantic works of Brahms, Mahler and Bruckner.
You just became president of DID. Why did this position appeal to you?
The DID position rolls into one job many of the roles that I’ve had; managing a board, managing a quasi-public entity, fundraising and grant management, economic development, quality of place, the creative sector, historic preservation. Looking at the job, I saw that Bill Brown, my predecessor, did an amazing job of passing on a great team and well-run organization. Downtown Fort Wayne is the engine that drives so many of the interconnected wheels of our region. If we can continue the momentum of downtown, we’ll see more business and people wanting to relocate here, we’ll see more great restaurants and stores, and we’ll see better economic futures for our entire city, county and region. Plus, there are so many fun events and programs that I get to be a part of!
I see you were executive director of ARCH. Do you have a history or background in historic architecture?
I got involved in ARCH at the board level because of my history background. When I was a kid, I was fascinated with Civil War battlefields and the buildings where history happened in particular. When ARCH acquired the Underground Railroad-related Rankin House, I wanted to be involved in helping restore it. I liked it so much that I went back to school to pick up my MSHP degree from Ball State. ARCH was expanding as I finished my degree, so I was able to start with them, and five years later to become the Executive Director.
Then you went to the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership and were director of the Road to One Million. Was that your idea?
Working at the Partnership was a fantastic learning experience and broadened my skill set tremendously. Two of my colleagues at the Partnership were on the ARCH Board and alerted me about the job when it was first announced, so I was partly recruited. Working on the Road to One Million and the Regional Cities Initiative was awesome, and I value tremendously my continuing relationship with both the Regional Partnership and the Regional Development Authority.
You have changed jobs a lot. Why?
On one side of my career, I’ve changed jobs a lot in the last five years, but I spent 10 years at ARCH and next year will be my 30th at the Philharmonic. I have a really wide variety of interests, so a lot of jobs sound appealing. I think our economy has changed enough so that changing jobs, within reason, isn’t as much of a negative as it might have been 20 or 30 years ago.
Do you think to have a successful career you have to change employers and jobs every few years to find success?
I think that being open to opportunity is definitely one way to find success. I also think some jobs have a built-in ceiling and that to advance, you have to be open to looking elsewhere.
In the old days it was called “climbing the ladder” at your workplace if you wanted more responsibility and money. Does that option even exist anymore?
Certainly. I have spent a lot of time thinking about talent attraction while in my role at the partnership, and one of the fastest ways a company can lose an employee is for the employee to feel like they’re at a dead end. If people don’t see a way to climb the ladder and progress in their career, you’ll lose a lot of great employees.
What advice would you give someone who is stuck in a job rut but lacks the confidence to apply for jobs outside their current company?
Find more confidence. Somehow, in any way. Most jobs can be accomplished with competence and confidence. Do the work!
What do you like about Fort Wayne?
This is home. It’s small enough to have the “two degrees of Fort Wayne” be a thing and yet still big enough to have great amenities. It’s small enough so that you can build a reputation and network, and yet still big enough that you can compete nationally. We’re on track upward like we haven’t seen in Fort Wayne since the 1920s!
What are your goals for DID?
I want the DID to continue doing the things we do well like clean, green, events, and social marketing while pushing us to better reflect our mission of becoming the “vibrant urban core of Northeast Indiana.” We can do a better job with inclusion and diversity, expanding the “cool” factor like Art This Way and look to areas of expansion like facilitating retail growth, targeted infill and advocacy.
I see you’re from Interlochen, Michigan. Did you grow up there? It’s a beautiful area with two nice lakes and Lake Michigan not that far away. How did you ever settle in Fort Wayne?
My family moved to Interlochen when I was 12, so “up north” will always hold a place in my heart. Growing up in the north woods was fantastic and I still go north occasionally to vacation and fish. The Philharmonic job brought me to Fort Wayne, and then I met a cute girl from here, bought a house and the rest just followed!
Your profile picture on Facebook shows a picture of you surrounded by a lot of young people. Is that your family? If so, tell us a little about them.
My wife, Janet, and I have two daughters; the oldest, Cate, is a sophomore at McGill University in Montreal and the youngest, Amelia, is in her junior year at Canterbury. The picture is of our exchange student Signe Johannsen from Stockholm who spent a year with us. Her whole family came over to celebrate the end of her year in America. She was an amazing girl and really became part of our family. This was us tearing up and laughing at the same time as we were saying goodbye.