Ray Towry Loves His Work and Grant County

Posted on Apr 06, 2016

Ray Towry"I find it hard to imagine you could find a more welcoming area," says Ray Towry, Recreation, Tourism, and Public Relations Director for the City of Ephrata. Towry knows Grant County well, having grown up in Ephrata and lived in the county all his life except when he went to college. "I love the sense of community, the open space, and geology," Towry says of the county.

After graduating from Ephrata High School, Towry spent a short time trying to have a soccer career at Bellevue College. When that didn't work out, he transferred to Washington State University to become a physical education teacher and high school sports coach. But WSU ended its physical education program shortly after he arrived. While he was told he could finish his degree, he thought "what kind of education would you get from a dying program?" So Towry changed majors to Recreation Administration and Leisure Studies with an emphasis on business.

After college, Towry started working for the City of Moses Lake. "Then I got a call from the City of Ephrata to come home," he says.  He's worked for the city for twelve years now. He also earned a Master of Public Administration from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington while working. It was an "intense" program of 18 months, Towry explained, adding he was fortunate to be selected with "some of the brightest minds in the region."

"I really enjoy my work," Towry says. "I look forward to work. I have a great job and I work with great people and a great boss." He adds that Wes Crago, the city administrator, is "an amazing mentor and has taken the time to help me understand the role of local government." Crago emphasizes partnerships between communities, Towry explains. "'Everyone playing nice in the sandbox,' he says."

Towry feels "blessed" by the stability of the city council and mayors. "They all recognize the role of government to serve the community" and work with the community to obtain goals. Towry says he "loves the people I work with," adding it's a "familial" atmosphere and a team effort.

The challenges Towry faces in his job are providing services on a budget that has been reduced by 30% with manpower that has been reduced by 20%. But, he says, the team atmosphere has brought everyone together to figure out how to do it. Towry would like to better explain to the public the role recreation plays in a community and how it can be an economic driver. Recreation, he says, "is a piece of the puzzle" that helps a community grow.

Ray Towry, 2016 EDC PresidentTowry became a director of the Grant County Economic Development Council in 2012 as part of his job duties for public relations. "The city as a whole recognizes a lot the EDC does for the region and what's good for the region is good for the city." Towry says the Ephrata city council and mayor understand the importance of what the EDC does for Grant County. And, Towry adds, "if you want to support the EDC, you have to be involved."

"If you look at the growth the county has experienced the past decade, it's self-evident" that the EDC is doing a lot of things right, Towry says. He points to the diversity "gained in the economy." Towry explains that a lot of what the EDC does daily is "shrouded in secrecy" because of non-disclosure agreements. So a lot of people don't understand how busy the EDC is, Towry adds, and that "Grant County is a big player in the region for economic development." Grant County is "experiencing things other areas of the region haven't and it's due to the hard work and leadership of a lot of people," Towry says. He adds that the various councils and commissions in the county made decisions that "place Grant County in a great position." "We can't go out and advertise all the communications and interest we have but there's a lot of it," Towry adds. Towry was Vice-President of the EDC last year, and is President this year.

"We're on a good, solid path going forward," Towry says. He'd like to see more growth in regional networks as communities plan together and move forward. "As we continue to shrink globally, that's where we have to go," he explains.

The biggest change Towry says he's seen living in Grant County is the diversification of the economy from just agriculture to agriculture and processing and industry. Also Towry has seen the growth in population of Grant County and the growth of Big Bend Community College and the classes that BBCC has made "to meet the needs of the region." "Someone in Moses Lake can get a bachelor's degree without leaving Moses Lake," he adds. Also, Towry cites the growth of tourism in the county that has "been amazing." He says people come here for the water and geological features, and hunting and fishing.

Towry is part of the Washington Recreation and Parks Association and the National Recreation and Parks Association. He has volunteered to coach youth sports. He was a member for 20 years of the Columbia Basin Officials Association and refereed high school basketball games.

"I'm not allowed to have fun," Towry says with a smile. As the father of four children ages 11 to 17, he and his wife, Shannon, "chase kids to all their events. Our fun is watching our children accomplish and grow."

But it comes back to the welcoming people of Grant County for Towry. "I'm blessed to have that since I got to Ephrata 12 years ago."