OTTUMWA — When Jim Lindenmayer started as a college recruiter more than 30 years ago, he never pictured retiring from Indian Hills Community College as president.
"I never had any designs on being president until I applied for the job," said Lindenmayer in his office Tuesday.
The Marengo native, who will retire this year, began his IHCC tenure in 1980 as the adult education coordinator. He served as a vice president for 18 years.
"It wasn't the fulfillment of a goal. You just plug away, doing the best job you can," he said.
That job included mentoring young educators who showed potential, leading the school through record-breaking attendance and hammering at doors until the U.S. Department of Labor reopened competition for Job Corps Centers.
One thing Lindenmayer hasn't done is change his demeanor. He's earned a reputation for appearing calm, even in tense or emotionally charged situations. And though he regularly meets with everyone from entry-level workers to U.S. senators, he's not known as a "smooth talker" or a slick "schmoozer." At times he has been criticized, he said, for his perhaps-too-quiet march toward school and community goals.
"You go about things in a matter-of-fact way and do what needs to be done by putting together people who can do the job and then move on to the next project," he said. "But I think that's the culture here, it's not just me. We're busy doing stuff rather than blowing our own horn."
Lindenmayer agreed that one way the school has found success is by focusing beyond the gates of the campus and beyond a sole focus on surviving as a school. They have been predicting and reacting to the needs of their community. For example, the 10-county area needed nurses. IHCC built a large health program after asking hospitals and certification boards exactly what they want potential employees to know. The program is number one for placement among community colleges in Iowa.
As a former human resources professional, he's seen work places that foster poor attitudes. Indian Hills isn't perfect, he said, but the culture has everyone pulling in the same direction, the direction that benefits the school and the communities it's assigned to serve. People must like it, he said. There's not a lot of constant turnover at Hills. In fact, Lindenmayer is only the third president of the school. He served in that position for 11 years.
There's enough talent among the young leaders at the college that he and other key figures are able to retire with confidence. The ultra-supportive board of directors has the same forward-thinking, community-minded attitude, he said.
"Other than my family, it's the best thing that's ever happened to me," he said. "If I were young enough, I'd sign up for another 30 years."
Lindenmayer plans to stay an indeterminate amount of time this year, until his successor is selected and mentored. When he does move out of the presidential residence, he will have a place to go. He has purchased a home in Ottumwa.
If you ever find yourself wondering what reporter Mark Newman is thinking, his Twitter page is @couriermark