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Giving back: Randy Thompson enjoys serving the Worthington area where he can

Randy Thompson is employed as the Worthington Housing and Redevelopment Authority’s executive director, but is involved with numerous other community boards and organizations. (Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON — One might be surprised to learn Randy Thompson does have some free time, considering his involvement in the community.

“I guess I’ve always been of the mentality that you need to give back and be involved in your community,” Thompson said. “These are just the avenues that I’ve selected to do that. I’ve been asked by other community members if I want to be a part of (a board). They are areas of interest to me, but it’s just that willingness to want to be a part of it and hopefully for the better.”

Thompson’s full-time job as executive director of the Worthington Housing and Redevelopment Authority is just the tip of the iceberg of his community service.

He is the 2014 Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce President and chairman of the Worthington Public Utilities Water and Light Commission. He serves on the Worthington Area Foundation board, and helps with Ducks Unlimited and the Worthington Area YMCA. If that’s not enough, he’s on his local church board as well.

“I think they are all important components of our community,” Thompson said. “They are all things that I kind of like. I like the outdoors, and I’ve always thought Ducks Unlimited has been a worthy cause. With what’s happening with our nation’s wetlands, I think the work they do is important. I want to see us have a local chapter and have a local banquet each year. If you don’t have people who are willing to serve on those kinds of things, that’s the kind of stuff that can go away.”

Before graduating from Lakefield High School, Thompson joined the Minnesota Army National Guard.

“I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do at that point,” he said. “They had some really pretty good benefits for education and tuition reimbursement and student loan programs, so that was one of the main things I looked at when I enlisted. It certainly helped when it came time to pay for college.”

He was based in the Jackson unit for 18 years and in Luverne for three years before retiring at the rank of first sergeant.

“Continuing to go up the ranks in the military is not a bad thing,” he said. “The military obviously teaches you some good things — you learn leadership, you learn how to deal with other people and work with other people. They send you around the world and around the country a little bit, too.”

Thompson earned his bachelor’s degree from Mankato State University and a Masters of Business Administration from Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.

“I kind of got into the banking or finance world out of college,” Thompson said. “I worked for a finance company and after that, went to work for a bank. I was working for a bank up in Tracy, and this opening came about in Worthington and I thought it looked like a nice opportunity to get to a little bit bigger community and a little bit bigger bank. That’s what brought me here.”

Thompson moved to Worthington in 1996 to work at Community First National Bank. After three years, he was hired by the Southwest Initiative Foundation — based in Hutchinson — as the business finance officer. Five years later, he took a job at First State Bank Southwest.

“Most of my time in banking, I was on the lending side of banking,” Thompson said. “I did enjoy that because when you are making loans, you are usually doing something that’s either allowing an individual or a business to expand or complete a project, or something that’s going to enhance either their house, business or livelihood, and there’s a sense of accomplishment or gratitude that goes with that. You’re able to meet customer’s needs and allow them to do things that expand their household or business or their organization.”

However, a little more than a year ago, Thompson decided it was time for a change. He saw the opening for the housing authority and applied for the job.

“One thing that I have found, whether you’re working with a bank or the housing authority, it involves working with people,” he said. “We all have different needs and requests and issues that come up. You still have to be able to work with people and figure out how to get things accomplished, whether it be to get them to bank with you, help them with a loan or ... help get them into an apartment or solve a problem they might have. I guess I’ve always had an ability to communicate and get along with and work with other people. I think that’s a big part of whether I’ve been in banking or what I’m doing now.”

Family life

Thompson and his wife, Tara, have two children they raised in Worthington.

“My youngest daughter was born here,” he said. “She doesn’t know anything but Worthington. My older daughter was 4 or 5 years old when we moved here. Both of my kids have grown up here, and my wife and I have enjoyed our careers here.

“My wife has been employed with Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) ever since we moved here. She’s basically got 18 years with her career here. We like Worthington, and it’s certainly been a good place for us to expand our careers and bring our kids up.”

Their oldest, Amy, 21, works at the Nobles County Developmental Achievement Center. Their youngest daughter, Betsy, 17, is a junior at Worthington High School. Some of the family’s free time, Thompson said, is spent going to events at the high school. Betsy is on the Trojan volleyball, hockey and softball teams and plays summer softball as well.

The Thompsons celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in 2013. They met years ago in the Iowa Great Lakes.

“We both worked at Crescent Beach Resort,” Thompson said. “We met there. We both went to Mankato State University. We both have our master’s degrees, and she got her master’s from Southwest State as I did.”

Tara is the ECFE director with District 518.

Community involvement

Growing up, Thompson had experience with public utilities, so when the opportunity to serve on the Water and Light Commission arose, he jumped at the chance. He has served on the board for eight years.

“My dad was a public utilities employee, so it’s something I’ve always had an interest in, just because that’s what my dad did,” Thompson said. “That’s kind of why I put my name in with the city — that I would kind of like to serve on that board.”

Between the housing project with the HRA and Worthington’s involvement in the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System, Thompson is vitally involved in many important projects.

“There are times you feel overwhelmed, but they are also projects that are important to our community,” he said. “I’m willing to try to do what I can. I don’t do it alone.”

Thompson said other staff and board members , as well as community leaders and city officials, work with both state and federal politicians and elected officials to hopefully bring some of those dollars to Worthington for Lewis & Clark and more housing in Worthington.

As president of the Chamber of Commerce, Thompson is excited for what’s going to be a big year for the city.

“This year we’re going to have the nationals for the windsurfing and the Minnesota Bike Ride will be coming through Worthington and spending a night in town the Saturday night of the Regatta,” he continued. “Then, of course, our community has been selected for the 2014 Minnesota Governor’s pheasant season opener, which will be the second weekend of October. Those will be kind of some bigger events. I think they said this is the 75th anniversary of King Turkey Day.”

Thompson is glad to be helping support these events.

“I’m very happy to be a part of the Worthington community and serving where I can,” he said. “In my opinion, Worthington is a large enough community to provide a lot of opportunity, but small enough to get to know a lot of people and be involved in local organizations — know a lot of your neighbors and people that you go to different events with and go to church with. I’m a Minnesotan. I’ve been born and raised in Minnesota, and I want to stay here.”

Community Content Coordinator Aaron Hagen may be reached at 376-7323.