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Center for Rural Engagement hires state rural affairs leader as interim executive director

Nov 28, 2023

The Center for Rural Engagement at Indiana University Bloomington has hired Denny Spinner, an experienced local government and rural affairs leader, as its interim executive director for the next year.

Denny Spinner. Photo courtesy of the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs Denny Spinner. Photo courtesy of the Indiana Office of Community and Rural AffairsSpinner has served as executive director of the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs since December 2020. Before that, he was mayor of Huntingburg in Dubois County for nine years. His first day at IU will be Dec. 11.

“I was very humbled by the offer; I have been impressed by the work the center has done,” Spinner said. “For me, a native of southern Indiana, to advance that mission and work with Indiana University is quite an honor.”

He replaces Kerry Thomson, who was elected Bloomington’s next mayor on Nov. 7. She has served as the Center for Rural Engagement’s executive director since 2018.

“We are thrilled that a person with Denny Spinner’s blend of experience, discernment and dedication will lead the Center for Rural Engagement and continue the excellent work it has accomplished over the last five years,” IU Bloomington Provost and Executive Vice President Rahul Shrivastav said. “We are confident that he will build on the center’s role as a vital partner for rural communities.”

The Center for Rural Engagement uses the research and expertise of IU Bloomington faculty, staff and students to help Indiana communities meet challenges and become stronger. Spinner said that as mayor of Huntingburg, he was at the announcement about the center’s creation.

“I knew immediately it was something I wanted to learn more about,” he said.

In fact, he said, the Center for Rural Engagement helped Huntingburg obtain a rural arts engagement grant to activate the city’s Market Street Park for festivals and events.

Spinner said the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs he currently leads works hand in hand with rural communities, using a variety of partners to deliver resources and assistance to help communities realize projects and goals. He said the Office of Community and Rural Affairs and the Center for Rural Engagement have a lot of the same clients.

Also, Spinner has served as president of Accelerate Indiana Municipalities, on the executive committee of Dubois Strong, as chair of the Huntingburg Stellar Committee and as Dubois County’s chief elected officer for the Region 11 Workforce Investment Board.

Spinner said he plans to continue work in progress at the Center for Rural Engagement, but he also plans to meet with IU President Pamela Whitten and Shrivastav to learn about their vision for advancing the center in the next year.

His working relationship with Thomson facilitated the eventual offer to become the center’s interim executive director, he added.

“Kerry has been a dynamic leader for the center, and she’s always been a great ally and partner to the work I’ve done in both my roles,” Spinner said. “To have her endorsement means a tremendous amount to me.”


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Kirk Johannesen

Communications Consultant, Strategic Communications

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