Hometown: Dell Rapids, SD
What keeps you in Sioux Falls? Great city, great family, and great friends.
Who was your Masonic sponsor and why did you become a Master Mason? My Father Gay Brown. I was raised alongside my brother Kelly. We are Legacies as both our father and our Uncle Elsworth Brown were long time members of the Dell Rapids Lodge.
What is your favorite part of being a Masonic Shriner? It is the fact that I am a member of the greatest Fraternity in the world and knowing that I can go anywhere in that world and be embraced by brothers with that common bond.
How did you get involved, what all you do, and for how long have you been involved with all of the multiple El Riad Shrine committees with which you are a part? A year after joining the Shrine, I was invited to become a member of the Circus Committee. I was assigned to work with Dick Kelly in Out-of-town Ticket Sales. A year later, upon Dick Kelly’s exit, I was appointed Chairman of Out-of-town Ticket Sales. (This was my first lesson in how things work in the Shrine). I am still a member of this committee, partly because it is the best committee ever and partly because the only way you get off this committee is to move away or die. I am a member of the Football Committee, Membership Committee. I am an elected member of the Board of Trustees. I was a Charter Member of the Shrine Cup Golf Committee and served as MSA Housing Chair in 2002.
What Units and Clubs have you been and/or currently are a member? Because of our love for choral music, my brother and I joined the Chanters and through the years have had the awesome experience of singing alongside some other family Legacies including our Father, brother-in-law Don Christensen, cousins Dick and Al Brown, nephews Joe and Peter Brown and a host of other wonderful men who share that love for choral music. I was a Charter Member of the Ski Unit and the now defunct Golf Unit. Because I am a Past Potentate, I have been awarded honorary membership in many other Units and Clubs, a distinction I greatly cherish.
Why did you accept the position of divan and then Potentate for our shrine? After serving as Chief of Staff for three years, it was something of a natural progression for me and I was honored to be chosen to serve on a Divan that I had worked so closely with as C.O.S.
What was your favorite thing about being the El Riad Shrine Potentate? It is hard to find the words to describe the pride that goes with being chosen Potentate and Chairman of the Board of a temple that is so universally recognized, both in the Midwest Shrine Association and internationally, as being among the leaders in every measurable category. Being the individual who gets to step forward and accept all of the accolades because of the efforts of so many is truly an honor and an experience I will never forget.
What was your largest challenge as El Riad Potentate? PP Leo Heligas, my dear friend and a mentor to many of us, was serving on the Board as Recorder in 2006 when he became seriously ill. So, in addition to being Potentate, I took on many of the Administrative duties of the Recorder. I will say that that experience was good preparation for me as I was subsequently honored to serve the Board as Recorder for eight years.
What were you most excited to accomplish? The leadership bar at El Riad has always been set pretty high. I gave my best effort not to lower it.
How did First Lady Paula feel about her Shrine year? Paula doesn’t like to talk about herself, and I will say that being First Lady was not something that fell anywhere near her comfort zone. I will also say that she handled the challenge with grace and dignity. When we look back on those years on the line at El Riad we always talk about the people and the close friendships we developed throughout the Shrine. The wonderful experiences we had with our fellow El Riad Divan couples and counterparts across the country served to develop close friendships that continue to this day.
Describe El Riad Shrine in five words: BEST TEMPLE IN THE WORLD.
Where do you see El Riad Shrine in five years? Up and up and up and up and up. Because of the wonderful leadership program we have in place at El Riad, we continue to develop leaders dedicated to maintaining and raising that bar year after year. As someone who has been through that process it is such a joy to watch our current Divan in action.
What would you tell shriners and their families about joining our family, fraternity and philanthropy? I would tell them to talk to John Archer, or Bill Thompson, or Tony Bachman, or any other member of our membership committee. All shriners have the passion but some are better at expressing it than others. The three guys I mentioned are among the best at it.
What else would you like to share with our Cactus readers? The Pandemic has had a terrible effect on so many things including Fraternal Organizations such as ours. It’s time to kick start El Riad. Please follow the lead of our leaders and know that the only way this happens is through the active involvement of our members. Love you all.