The List – The Top Influencers of 2019 – Clay Gerhard

The List – The Top Influencers of 2019 – Clay Gerhard

Clay Gerhard

Director of Operations for the Decatur Park District 

Who was your first mentor in life?

As a child, I looked to my parents first in the role of “mentor”. I don’t recall recognizing anyone else in that role until I fully entered life as a professional. While at Richland Community College, I may have forced David Holtfreter (then the Director of Operations there) to mentor me with my constant barrage of questions and desire to be involved in various tasks of the Operations department. David had such a wealth of knowledge and could remember the smallest details about every mechanical system. I knew I could learn a lot from David and his years of experience, and I made the most of every opportunity that I could to learn from him. We still meet together for lunch from time to time and I run different situations by him to gain his valuable perspective. Often times he not only offers a different solution to a problem I’m facing but also gives me the encouragement I need to hear in that moment. That kind of personal perspective and experience is the greatest teacher and a resource you just can’t beat.

What was your most memorable lesson?

The most memorable lesson I have learned to date is that time is your most valuable asset. I truly believe we all have a predetermined amount of days on this Earth and it’s up to us to make the most of that time. Early in my career, I didn’t make my family a priority. I would spend my days on the job, and my nights working as well, and I missed a lot of the early years with my kids. I still struggle with the work/life balance but I try to get as much accomplished as I can during the work day so that I can be fully present and enjoy my family in the evenings. I’ve learned how to better prioritize what receives my time and attention to help make this possible.

What does community mean to you?

When I think of community, I instantly think of our Decatur Community. When I think of all the events and activities this community supports, it’s mind boggling. Every weekend there is an opportunity to be involved in something meaningful to help others, whether it’s the Community Food Drive, the Decatur Celebration, the Judy Mason Thanksgiving Project, or any other serving opportunity. Any time I hear of an organization in need or even a family in need, the generous spirit of people here shows up and they get in the game.

Why are you involved in the community?

I’m involved in this community because I love Decatur – I was born and raised here, went to school here, work here, was married here, and I am glad to now raise a family here and watch them all get connected to everything Decatur has to offer. I enjoy taking part in events that fight the stereotype that “there’s nothing to do in Decatur” and that heighten the sense of hope and pride in this place. I look at how many people rallied around the Decatur Celebration last year to ensure its success, while at the same time the community threw its support behind the new Devon Lakeshore Amphitheater, and it feels like anything is possible here. When we work together, great things happen!

What advice would you give to people who want to do more?

I would tell people to just start somewhere. Even if it’s thirty minutes a week, get involved in some initiative, church, school, event, or organization in our Community. There is no shortage of opportunities! Let’s face it – we are all getting older and you need new blood to come into organizations to keep them sustainable and relevant. Without new people and new ideas, we run the risk of going backwards as a community.