By Dirk Webb
Photo courtesy of Kyle Morey
Gerry Longenbaugh may have his roots in Illinois, but he is Anderson and Madison County through and through. The son of a Methodist minister, Gerry grew up in Decatur, Illinois surrounded with the pastoral calling.
“My uncles, brothers and a brother-in-law are all ministers.” Gerry answered the call himself serving three congregations in Illinois over a period of thirteen years. Deciding to go into music ministry, Gerry enrolled at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois, graduating with a degree in Church Music. After attending seminary he served 18 years in music ministry at Faith United Methodist in Indianapolis.
“I was responsible for Choirs and for music programs for preschool on up to adult.”
After losing his first wife, Gerry, now the father of three sons, married Marie who had four of her own. The couple had a child of their own forming their own “Brady Bunch.” He soon found that the salary of a church music director didn’t stretch very far for a family that large.
“The General Manager of WHBU, Louie Disinger, approached me to become the station’s first sales manager. WHBU at the time had been on the air since 1925 and was the only radio station in town so he just sat back and took orders. When WLHN (FM), and WHUT (AM) opened, they had sales departments so now WHBU needed one. Our sales were so successful for a standalone station (over $400,000) that he decided to sell it,” remembers Longenbaugh.
Gerry made the move to WLHN (6 years) and after the company’s bankruptcy, was put in charge of getting WLHN ready for sale. Perry Griffith and Gary Todd of Indianapolis purchased it and rechristened it WXXP.
Says Longenbaugh, “I then worked for TCI Cable for two years with Carlene Westerfield-Gunter until Gary Todd invited me back as his sales manager.” Through Gerry’s sales leadership, WXXP was profitable within 18 months.
Griffith and Todd sold WXXP to Moody Bible Institute (WGNR) whose revenue depends on donations from its listeners and has no sales department.
Anderson University then called Gerry to join WQME where he served for 15 years as Sales Manager and where he retired in 2012.
“I loved working with the students and the Christian atmosphere. Worked there until I retired at age 75.”
Dennis Ashley, the current Madison County Chamber Director of Operations was part of the Flower Cart, a family owned business in Pendleton. They had been a long standing client of Gerry’s and when Dennis started an event planning business and he turned to Gerry for help in acquiring sponsorships.
Ashley and Longenbaugh worked together for about a year until Dennis took the operations position with the Chamber.
“Dennis mentioned to Kyle Morey that the Chamber had no formal sales position. Kyle contacted me, offered me a sales position, I accepted and I’ve been here four years"
Gerry describes his time at the Chamber as “the most enjoyable experience I’ve had.” He describes the staff as “ideal” while adding with a smile “even though Kyle is messing that up by leaving. We like working together and we produce.”
Recently, Gerry was awarded outstanding citizen by Mayor Broderick and the Outstanding Service Award from the Chamber.
In 2006, the South Central Indiana District of The Church of the Brethren selected Gerry to serve as District Moderator supervising 48 churches in Indiana. “That appointment was a signature honor in my life. I found myself drafting policy and leading the district through a very stormy season of social change in our country.”
A resident of Pendleton since 1974, Gerry is now the grandfather of 20 and great grandfather of six and is regularly questioned about what the future holds for him.
“I like working, I like people, and I like the community. I told Kyle my goal is to work at the Chamber until I’m 85.”
Would you consider Madison County to be in the midst of sunrise? What does the business sunrise across the horizon look like to you?
“I believe we are. I’m closely connected and have a great relationship with the Economic Development staff and the Mayor. I’m usually the first in the door when a new business opens here. I’m very impressed with the economic efforts and see it continuing. I think great things are going to happen here. If Madison County is able to complete the reservoir, it will add another dimension of appeal for businesses to come here. It will make Anderson one of the hot spots in the state for Economic Growth.”
What does "A New Day" mean to you?
“To me every day is a new day. I look forward to new experiences and new opportunities.”
How has your optimism helped you guide your vision?
“I’ve always been an optimistic person. I’ve never allowed myself to be a pessimist or to be negative. ”
Is your optimism ever threatened?
“Yes. Optimism has its challenges. Sometimes you have a setback and you have to figure out how to move forward. For example the bankruptcy at WLHN was a challenge I had to work through.”
If Optimism leads to achievement, what is it you hope our community will achieve in 2016?
“I believe our community will continue to be one of the best in the state both in business and economic development. We’re on the verge of expanding to our GM levels of employment with NTN Driveshaft and other organizations on the horizon but with more diversification.”
If you were to have five minutes with someone who was considering relocating to Madison County what would you tell them?
“We are one of the best areas for opportunity. The job market is great. There is no excuse for someone who wants to work to not have a job. We have great cultural experiences with the Art Center, and The Paramount among others. We have Mounds Park and many other recreational opportunities. If they’re looking for a church home we have a wide variety of churches. We’re the headquarters of the Church of God. We have Anderson University. There are lots of reasons to make this your home.”