Harold Phillips could put on a show. And after more than two decades of the finest showmanship this county had to offer, we’re sad to see him go.
Phillips, 62, announced his retirement last week, with plans to step down as fairgrounds director after this summer’s Douglas County Fair.
There aren’t many positions in the county with as much pressure as the fairgrounds director. When summertime rolls around, everyone expects better rides, bigger exhibits and brighter shows. And for every event that is held at the fairgrounds, perfection is assumed.
Phillips took on that challenge with loving enthusiasm. A fierce entrepreneur, Phillips also seemed poised and willing to make bold moves to position the fairgrounds for future success.
Yet, when things went awry, as they did when Seether, a South African alternative rock group, canceled its concert barely 24 hours ahead of a scheduled concert in 2016, Phillips did what many leaders struggle to do: He was honest and he was humble.
Although the stage ultimately stayed dark that evening, there was no doubt that Phillips turned over every rock in the county in an effort to put something together.
That’s because Phillips had the kind of mechanical work ethic and endurance of a cyclist.
During his career Phillips completed a $1.2 million renovation project after only five months of fundraising, built the $4 million Community Conference Hall, and pushed the fairgrounds to become self-sustainable in seven short years after relying on nearly $400,000 from the county’s general fund.
It may be impossible to replace Phillips. In fact, we think it would be unfair and unwise for the fairground commission to make an attempt at replicating Phillips when looking for a new director — Phillips’ shoes may be too large to fill — but we are nevertheless excited to see how the fairgrounds expand upon its former leader’s fearless guidance.
Legendary American cyclist Greg LeMond, during the height of his career, once said, “It never gets easier, you just go faster.”
We think Phillips was going pretty fast.