If you want to be a great leader, you’ve got to learn to glean positive traits from others, and then imitate what you see.
That’s one of the lessons learned by this issue’s Everyday Hero, Rahn Hutcheson.
As the recently appointed Executive Director of the Averitt Center for the Arts, Hutcheson first came to the center as Development Director under the interim director at the time, Carol Thompson. Under former director Jamie Grady, he was appointed Deputy Director, then interim at Grady’s departure, and finally to his current position.
Hutcheson says he’s lucky to be a local boy. He was born in Minot, North Dakota, during his parents’ brief stay there. Troy Hutcheson and his new bride, Pat, had moved around while in the Air Force, but found that it was “way too cold for two southerners up there,” so they came home to Georgia. Hutcheson says he and his family lived in Rocky Ford while their home was being built in Hopeulikit, where his mother is originally from. His dad hails from Rocky Ford.
Hutcheson attended Portal High School, where he played football, was Student Council president, and had his first encounter with the arts as he participated in a once-act play. His father worked at Itt Grinnell, and as graduation approached, Hutcheson applied for and received a four-year scholarship through his dad’s employer. He applied to the University of Georgia and what was then known as Georgia Southern College.
But having graduated with about 30 students, he found UGA to be a bit large for his liking; so he opted to attend Georgia Southern, which had about 7,000 students enrolled at the time.
Hutcheson had an uncle, Dan Rahn, who worked at the Statesboro Herald as sports editor, who offered him a summer job just before he began college. Hutcheson was also working at the old Shoney’s in Statesboro at the time.
“It was like, I don’t want to do this forever, so I knew I wanted to go to college,” he said, laughing.
Unsure of what he wanted to do, Hutcheson enrolled in a law enforcement course, and was thinking of that as a possible career path. But his part-time job at the Herald opened up new options for him, and he soon found himself on a journalism/public relations/communications arts pathway.
Hutcheson calls his time at Georgia Southern a “very fun time.” He was very active socially, and pledged a fraternity, Phi Delta Theta. After graduation, he landed his first “real” job at Lewis Printing Company. His fraternity big brother, Tommy Lewis, was there, and Lewis’ father was interested in starting a community magazine. Hutcheson worked part-time as an outside sales representative, while he learned about the printing industry. He also was part of the team who started the magazine, Southern Traces, which ultimately won a Magnolia Midlands Award from the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Hutcheson’s first public relations job was with the Bulloch County Board of Education, working with Phyllis Thompson.
“I learned a lot of different things about education, and public relations and writing and dealing with parents,” he said. “I learned a lot, especially from Tom Bigwood, about promotion. I have a lot of good memories of my time with the BOE.”
Eventually, he was contacted by Lloyd Akins, who Hutcheson says wanted him to come and be the Public Relations Director at Bulloch Academy. He wasn’t interested in the position at first, but ultimately, he accepted it, with the title Director of Institutional Development.
“I learned a lot more from a lot of people there at the school,” he said. “People like Hubert Tankersley, Rita Groover, Nancy Stevens and a lot of the coaches and staff at the school. I have very good memories of Bulloch Academy. That’s where I became interested in working with children. I really hadn’t ever worked with children, except for covering sports. I had never really thought about it.”
During his tenure at BA, Hutcheson found that he not only spent time doing the job he was hired for, but he also did a lot of extra things, like substituting in the classroom when needed, and car duty before and after school. He came to enjoy the children who got to know him as “Mr. Rahn.”
Hutcheson spent about 20 years at BA, and when the time came for him to move on, he heard about the position at the Averitt. He says he didn’t realize the situation at the arts center was so dire at that time.
“I didn’t realize what a tough situation they were in at that time. Carol and I worked really hard to try and turn things around, and turn the corner,” he said. “I remember she cancelled a lot of shows that year, and we had to get back on good financial footing, and we did. I was very appreciative to her for showing me different things. I’d been in education and journalism and sports, and here I go, ‘boom’ in the arts world, and it’s like, I don’t know anything about the arts.”
He says he’s still learning.
“I’m learning day by day and enjoying my position. It’s very stressful, being the boss,” he said, with a laugh. “There are a lot of decisions you have to make. I’m learning as I go, I guess.”
During his years at the Averitt, Hutcheson has worn many hats. Whatever it takes, whatever needs to be done, Hutcheson says he’s up for it. And no job, no matter how big or small, is beyond him.
“You have to get in there and roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty, especially in a small organization like this,” he said.
Hutcheson says he finds it hard to tell others what to do; he prefers to just jump in and work alongside them.
“I’ll help them do it. Or I’ll do it and say, ‘Can you help me?’ You have to lead by example. If you don’t, and you’re just at the top, barking out orders all the time, people get tire of that in a New York minute and they’ll resent you,” he said.
He says he also likes to truly know what’s going on throughout the different departments at the Averitt.
“I may not can play guitar, but I want to know about guitar. Or I like to go to the Roxie Remley and watch them throw clay. You should learn as much as possible,” he said.
Hutcheson has been like that throughout his career, always willing to learn as much as he can in each situation and from each person he encounters.
“I’ve been blessed to have rubbed elbows with a lot of really smart, down-to-earth folks. And hopefully, I’ll rub elbows with some more. It’s all about who you can learn from. You’re always learning in any situation,” he said.
When he’s not at the Averitt, Hutcheson can often be found on the softball or baseball field. He’s a 25-year veteran umpire, and says that although he’s spent so many years on the field, he’s always learning something new.
He also enjoys spending time with his wife, Missy. The couple met on a blind date. Hutcheson says he had shied away from marriage, and got married later on in life — which he now sees as a very good thing.
“It was a good thing I did wait that long, because she is a gem. She’s just the sweetest thing,” he says, smiling.
The couple lives near Hutcheson’s mother, Pat. His father passed way five years ago. Hutcheson also has a sister, and he gets choked up speaking about her. He admires her courage and strength as she has battled and survived cancer twice.
When asked who his mentors are, Hutcheson says there are so many people who he has looked up to that he would have a hard time choosing a few. But in his time at the Averitt, he points to Thompson, along with Trish Tootle, president of the Averitt Board, and Allen Muldrew, director of the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority.
He also points to others in his past, including Fred Shaver, Billy Bice, Pam Borland, Tom Marks, David Thompson, Phyllis Thompson, Leisa Houghton and Charles Webb.
Hutcheson says he’s watched each of these people, and more, and he’s learned to emulate the things about them that he admires most. He says he likes to watch people and see how they do things, and react to people and circumstances.
He also says that regardless of where life takes you, it is important to remember your base morals, and who you are.
“It’s important to remain humble. Humility is important because that’s what Jesus exemplified. He was very meek and mild, and very humble. And I think that’s the way we’re taught to live,” he said. “Also, try to live in peace with others, even when it’s hard. Love your neighbor as yourself.”
So on any given day, you might find Hutcheson in the bathroom at the Averitt, changing out toilet paper rolls. You might catch him changing the marquis out front, or using the leaf blower to tidy up the sidewalk outside the building. Or you might see him welcoming guests in the lobby or from the stage.
As for being an Everyday Hero, Hutcheson says he’s undeserving.
“I’m very honored, but I don’t deserve it. There are so many people out there that do so many more important things,” he said. “Me? I’m not a hero.”