In July 1995, Tom Neibaur began his contributions to Rural Neighborhoods through professional financial management and experience in nonprofit management. Moving us from pencil and columnar pads to increasingly sophisticated computerized accounting, his role as Chief Financial Officer led us to national public accountants as our work outgrew our historic, local CPA. His implementation of our property management software brought us to LIHTC industry standards. Building this strong foundation enabled RN to develop, build and become a statewide provider of affordable housing. His work continued as Director of Operations broadening his based of knowledge and increasing his impact.
Tom blessed us with a remarkable and sometimes mercurial personality. This professionalism was marked by Tom’s wit and sarcasm characterized by the Disney character Grumpy he chose to adorn his desk. He cherished making the entirety of staff (grass roots or leadership) answer tough questions about tasks, expenditures. and quality of work. Slowly and sometimes uncomfortably, he drew out answers to his eventual satisfaction often ending the conversation with a retort and chuckle “I had to ask.” I, even as President of Rural Neighborhoods, certainly wasn’t spared those Grumpy moments.
Ours is not a particularly hierarchical structure. It is built as a organization where ideas can be questioned, improved, then implemented. Tom was a true practitioner of internal debate. I often remarked that Tom saved us countless dollars, slowed my impulsiveness, and improved our strategies. He often scoffed. Reminded me I was still going to do x, y or z. But his contribution impacted our direction, subtly or otherwise. Tom made us better.
This past year or more has served as the finest memory. Our insights clicked. His institutional skepticism relaxed (as mine ironically grew). The legacy of his 28 years’ service was visible. A gregarious Tom emerged (it was there under the surface all along).
“Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to look for any reward, save that of knowing that I do your Holy Will.” Saint Ignatius of Loyola