Runyan keeps on giving back
‘Don’t be afraid to step forward and do something’
Editor’s note: This feature first ran in a special publication called Hometown Pride, featuring people and organizations from
Fort Dodge and the surrounding area who are working hard for their communities.
STRATFORD — To say Larry Runyan is involved with his community is like saying that the Super Bowl is just a little scrimmage for professional football players.
That’s because in the 40-plus years Runyan has been a resident of Stratford, he has been active in just about every civic organization — plus city government — in his community. And he has no immediate plans to ease himself out of any of it.
“Everything I’ve done went to give back to the community,” he commented about his service to the community. “I’ll stay active and involved in what’s going on until the next generation steps up.”
It’s not unusual for adults who have always lived in their hometown to have such devotion to it, but Runyan grew up near Newell, where he graduated from high school in 1968. That’s when he came to Stratford to be near family. Uncle Sam called, though, to draft him to serve in the Army from 1970 to 1971, which Runyan terms a good experience as he trained as a military policeman and served at Fort Meade, Maryland, until discharge.
Then it was back to Stratford, where in 1973 he married his wife, Kim, a Stratford native, and they settled in to raise their family that grew to include two sons while Runyan was employed by the Department of Transportation.
His military service led to his membership in the Stratford American Legion Post 526, where he’s been involved for more than 30 years. Currently, he serves as post commander. Also, because he’s a veteran, he is a board member for Hamilton County Veteran Affairs.
And he was on the committee that made plans for the Hamilton County Freedom Rock. It’s completed now and rests on a plaza on Shakespeare Avenue in Stratford.
His favorite volunteer endeavor?
“Fire and rescue, because I’m helping someone.”
He’s been on the Stratford fire and rescue team as an emergency medical technician for more than 36 years, with plenty of opportunities to help others in all kinds of situations where they need assistance. That’s 150 to 160 calls per year, plus continuing training that’s required by the state to maintain certification. And there are another six to 10 fire calls annually.
“There are calls and accidents at any time. My goal is to help people and make them feel better, to be compassionate to their needs.” After years of volunteering for these emergencies, Runyan estimates he knows about 80 percent of the population in and around Stratford.
The tornado that hit the town in 2005 tested the skills, strength and endurance of all the members of fire and rescue that November, and it’s something Runyan will likely never forget.
“Some of us were out on tornado watch that day, so we knew it was coming, but we didn’t know where it would hit.”
Damage in Stratford was extensive, and Runyan was needed not only as a member of fire and rescue, but also because he was the town maintenance man at the time.
More importantly, his mother died when her house was destroyed by the tornado.
“That was probably the most stressful, demanding time I have ever spent.”
Runyan retired in 2013 after 25 years as city maintenance director, and water and wastewater operator.
But he didn’t get too far from city government; he ran for a city council seat. Finishing that four-year term, he ran for mayor and is currently serving his first term in that post.
These are challenging times for most small towns, as he sees it.
“As mayor, we’re trying to improve the town and make it viable as a place to come. There’s always a need for newer houses here. We’re not progressing like we want. We have empty buildings on Main Street, but the Freedom Rock is a nice draw.”
His volunteerism even reaches to his neighbors in Stanhope. That community needed a certified water and wastewater operator as required by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, so he was hired to do that, and other tasks as needed, on a part-time basis. And since he was around anyway, he joined the Stanhope fire and rescue team.
For over 25 years, he’s been a Stratford Lion. He’s also Marion Township clerk and a board member for South Marion cemetery. All that adds up to eight to 10 meetings each month.
“I would say that any club is a way of giving back to your community. They all do something to return to the community, and they all need support to carry on. It takes time and people to get it done. They’re always looking for new members.”
His devotion to his community and involvement has continued to grow.
“I like being active and involved. But after 30-some years of doing all this, hopefully a newer generation says, ‘I can do that.'”
He offered this advice: “Don’t be afraid to step forward and do something. You may like it. And there are many rewards for getting involved.”