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Manager Russ Rhoden is leaving to focus on church ministry work in Uganda, and Bruce Scanlon will take his place starting next month

JASON CHANEY - As Russ Rhoden (left) steps away, Bruce Scanlon will take over as manager.

Russ Rhoden has spent the past couple years dividing his time between managing Ochoco Irrigation District and serving church missions in Uganda.

Next month, he will return to the African country to complete more mission work, but this time, he could be gone for up to two years. So to fill the leadership void at the irrigation district, a new manager will take the reins next month.

Bruce Scanlon was born and raised in Prineville, but after graduating from high school, he left town, went to college and settled down in the Willamette Valley.

"I have a background in teaching and moved into college administration," he said, noting that he has most recently managed college programs to serve students at Chemeketa Community College.

After 30 years in the education field, Scanlon and his wife, also a Prineville native, had raised their children and were looking for a way to come back home to Crook County.

"We had spent pretty much all summers and all of our vacations in Prineville," he said, adding that the majority of his family lives in the community as well.

Scanlon said that when he and his wife first discussed returning to Prineville, he explored the education field, but he found that God wasn't opening any doors to any jobs of that nature.

"Then I was introduced to this (OID manager) position as a possibility," he said. "This was the only door that kept opening."

As that door was opening, Rhoden and his wife were praying about whether to accept a longer-term mission in Uganda. He explained that there is an orphanage there, Otino Waa, where he has served on the ground and as a board member in Bend.

"The founders of that ministry called me and my wife and said, 'Would you pray about being the next in-country directors,'" Rhoden recalls. "We just kept pursuing it and in a sense, the door never closed. It was probably right around Labor Day that my wife and I came to the decision that we are going. About that time is when Bruce stepped in as assistant manager."

Rhoden had decided the district would benefit from an assistant manager before the ministry opening was known. He realized that he was gravitating gradually toward full-time ministry at some point and notes that the demands of running OID had created the need for another managerial position.

"We were running a little lean on that end," Rhoden said. "Even if I was to stay another three or four years, we should be grooming somebody to step into this position."

For Scanlon, the change from the education field to irrigation seemed like a substantial one, and he began studying up on the OID and irrigation in general.

"We (he and Rhoden) traveled around the district. and I had done some research and learned about the very superficial things," Scanlon said. "It really helped to solidify for me that a lot of what happens in the education world is not that much different, from a managerial standpoint, than what is happening with irrigation. You are managing a resource, whether it is education or water, and you are trying to serve your patrons as well."

Rhoden explained that what he sought in Scanlon was someone with solid management and people skills.

"I think that in this day and age, with irrigation district work, the manager really needs some good management skills," he said, "and Bruce brings those with him."

And since taking the assistant manager role in September, Scanlon has proven to be a quick study. Rhoden notes that he is "a Prineville boy" and is "not a stranger to irrigation pipe, farming and working hard."

"I have to say that Bruce is learning pretty quickly," he added.

And even though Rhoden will be out of country full time, he will make himself available if questions should arise. He points out between texting, emailing, FaceTime and other technological options, he has been able to stay connected with his friends in Uganda.

"So it's not unreasonable to think we can do those kinds of things," he said.

Scanlon will transition to the manager role on Jan. 1, and the OID Board will make his appointment to the position official at their next meeting on Jan. 7.

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