Humility and an uncompromising character is the substance of great leaders. As a 19-year resident of Woodbury, and lifelong resident of South Washington County, I can say our community has long been blessed by great leaders.
I had the pleasure of helping with A Celebration of Community fundraiser on Thursday, June 21, honoring Superintendent Mark Porter and his wife Jane on his 32 years of service to South Washington County Schools.
Among Porters' friends in attendance that night were Mayors Mary Giuliani Stephens and Bill Hargis. Former Superintendent John Regan. Former Board Chair Jean Brown. Woodbury Community Foundation Executive Director Alisa Rabin Bell. Representatives Andrea Kieffer and Kathy Lohmer. Public Safety Chief Lee Vague. Men and women of humility and great character, all called to lead, they did or do so as Mark Porter has — with integrity.
Former student Tim Reimann opened the evening’s speeches with a look back on Porter’s first days as a coach and mentor, kicking off a career that began when he agreed to coach a Woodbury High School football team that was coming off a 0-7 season. Hailed as a risk-taker, Porter quipped later in the evening that it was a short line of applicants and he needed a job.
The last of six speakers, Keith Daniels ended the look-back by speaking about Porter’s leadership in bringing Bible Study Fellowship to Woodbury. The program (attended by 300 men and 75 children) equips men to be spiritual leaders in their households and community.
Porter looked slightly uneasy as he was hailed as a great coach and mentor, a fair and successful negotiator, and a principled leader, and Master of Ceremonies Pastor Ralph Olsen checked in with him on several occasions: "Are ya still humble?"
Porter and wife Jane had agreed to the event only if it could be a fundraiser for a mission for which they have incredible passion: Berean Missional Church/Harvest Academy.
Berean Missional Church is pastored by a former St. Paul firefighter Duane Gibbs. Gibbs shared his story of redemption and his decision to leave a job where he saw so much suffering that it became unbearable in order to deliver a message of hope in Jesus Christ to those who suffer.
Through their eight-year relationship with BMC/Harvest Academy, Mark and Jane Porter have played a significant role. Coming alongside Duane Gibbs and his family as supporters and friends, they help provide encouragement and tools for young men and women to rise up out of poverty and circumstance to positions of leadership in inner-city St. Paul.
Jane shared a brief synopsis of Mark’s 32 years in the district — from coach to legal counsel to superintendent (with a few stops along the way). Then Mark took the stage to “correct any misstatements,” and he spoke about the future.
He said that he and Jane are meeting uncertainty with trust in God’s 3 Ps. They trust that their lives are full of purpose, they know that God has a plan for the next step, and they are confident that He has prepared them to put that plan into action.
Porter added that he and Jane now need to bring one of their own Ps to their God-relationship: Patience.
And he ended by noting, as he looked around the room of people who each are called by varying degrees to humble leadership, that we were all created as it says in Esther 4:14 "for such a time as this."
Thank you, Mark and Jane. God’s blessings on you as you have blessed us. It has been a good time to live in and to raise children in Woodbury. We pray it continues to go well — for you and for us.