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Palace City Profile: The advice of a stranger? 'Move to Mitchell'

Palace City Profiles is an ongoing series of community members' stories, introducing us to our neighbors and the personalities that call Mitchell home. If you have suggestions for individuals or families with a great story, please contact Jacki M...

Randall family, Tim and Jen and children Owen and Ben. Credit Wyn Wiley Photograph
Randall family, Tim and Jen and children Owen and Ben. Credit Wyn Wiley Photograph

Palace City Profiles is an ongoing series of community members' stories, introducing us to our neighbors and the personalities that call Mitchell home. If you have suggestions for individuals or families with a great story, please contact Jacki Miskimins at 996-1140.

Some people follow advice from friends, family, or fortune cookies. Other people follow the advice of strangers in the dairy aisle at the grocery store. As it turns out, Jen and Tim Randall are exactly those kind of people. The stranger's advice? Move to Mitchell.

So move to Mitchell they did, where Jen is the Director of Vocal Music for Mitchell High School, including Show Choir, and Tim owns Tim Randall Design & Photography, which provides graphic and ad design, photography, web design, animation, and video production.

But before the dairy aisle, and before Mitchell, the couple met while students at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln. Jen, who graduated from high school in Grand Island, Nebraska, studied music education. Tim, who grew up in Sioux Falls, earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Arts. A veritable team of acquaintances, including both Jen's mother and her roommate, convinced them to meet - and in 2003, the couple wed.

After graduation and their wedding, the Randalls stayed in Lincoln where Jen taught vocal music and coached dance, and Tim worked for the UNL College of Engineering. Then in 2005, they realized how free they were to go elsewhere.

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"My family had left Nebraska, and we didn't have kids yet. It was a good time to move," Jen says. "So we pretty much threw darts at a map, and decided that wherever one of us got a job first, we'd go."

That job was Jen's, as the Associate Director of Choral Activity at Central High School in Keller, Texas. Meanwhile Tim worked in advertising, design, and photography for Dillard's corporate, where he produced and coordinated everything from model photography and in-store graphics to merchandising directives.

As part of her new role, Jen created the first competitive show choir in the entire state of Texas.

"I was just young enough to believe I could do it," she recalls.

It was during her tenure as the vocal director in Keller that Jen had the chance to watch Mitchell's own show choir troupe, Friend de Coup, perform their award-winning "Disturbia" show in 2010.

It was an unforgettable moment. "I got to see that show live, and it just blew my mind," she says. "The content and the execution were the best I had ever seen. I absolutely had to learn more. So then I look up Mitchell and find out it's a small town - the high school has less than 1,000 students - and I was even more impressed. I went backstage to meet them, and their energy and kindness and spark were really infectious."

With Friend de Coup always in the back of her mind, Jen led her newly formed show choir through several seasons. Meanwhile, Tim moved from the world of corporate retail to education, opening a new program in Graphic Arts & Animation at the Hollenstein Career & Technology Center where he taught the adobe creative suite, studio photography, and 2D and 3D animation. The couple welcomed two boys, Ben and Owen, and life in Texas was going well.

Then Jen heard that Mitchell High School was hiring.

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She flew in for an interview and to watch the Show Choir Classic, then returned home to mull things over. And in that time, she and Tim went grocery shopping - where they saw a gentleman walk by wearing a Corn Palace T-shirt.

"I literally chased him down," Jen laughs.

She commented on his shirt and asked if he'd been to Mitchell. As it turns out, the man - who travels the country by RV with his wife - is a frequent visitor to Mitchell, and described it as "his favorite small town."

Jen continues: "So I asked him: 'Would you live there if you had the chance?' And he said, 'Well, do you have a chance to live there?' And I said yes, that I had a job offer. So he told me, 'You go there. It's a great place to be.' And he walked away."

She took the job.

True to the stranger's words, the Randalls have found Mitchell a great place to be. "Moving to Mitchell gave us back the gift of time," Tim explains. "It was a 30 or 45 minute drive each way to get anywhere; we were just toast. Now we can pick the boys up at school and we're home in two minutes."

And while Mitchell is much smaller than they were used to, the Randalls aren't missing much. "We were surprised how everything we need is here. But it's the right size of small," Tim says. "Where we were, it was so suburbanized that everything was a chain store. It's so nice here to have local stores, to be on a first-name basis with the people at the coffee shop."

Though Jen is now in her first season with Friend de Coup, which is already racking up awards for the year, her bond with the group is as old as several of the students in the group.

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"I saw FDC for the first time in 2002, when my brother competed against them," she explains. "And even though it was against my brother, that was my favorite show of the day. It was innovative, awe-inspiring. They were always something I looked up to. They had been such a big part of my path. How could I not come do it?"

No fortune cookie could have said it better.

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