Racquel Thiesen wears many hats in the community and surrounding areas. She’s co-owner of Growth Associates, a consulting firm, She is the vice-mayor of Newton, and she also is involved with Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Harvey County and is the president-elect of its board. And she is the co-chair of the Early Childhood Coalition and past president of the Kansas Leadership Forum.
Editor’s note: The Wichita Business Journal named its “Top 40 Professionals under 40” in the Wichita Area earlier this fall. Racquel Thiesen and Dr. Terry Mills of Newton, as well as former Newtonian Gary Janzen, were selected out of 160 nominations.Racquel Thiesen wears many hats in the community and surrounding areas. She’s co-owner of Growth Associates, a consulting firm, She is the vice-mayor of Newton, and she also is involved with Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Harvey County and is the president-elect of its board. And she is the co-chair of the Early Childhood Coalition and past president of the Kansas Leadership Forum.In her home office hangs a recently-acquired award, evidence of another hat she has earned — being named a 2008 “Top 40 Professional Under 40” by the Wichita Business Journal.Thiesen was one of 40 professionals honored earlier this fall and recognized at a Wichita ceremony in September. Thiesen was nominated by Mickey Fornaro-Dean and Sherry Esau with the Harvey County Economic Development Council. While they originally intended for it to be a surprise, the two eventually had to consult Thiessen to get some needed info for the application.Thiesen said the magazine sent her an extensive questionnaire. She said the first part dealt with credentials such as education, community involvement and volunteer service. The second part was a little more “fun,” with questions about ultimate vacation spots, tattoos and music taste. Many of those answers were shared during the recognition ceremony conduced at the Hyatt. The event included a social hour, individual and group photos, a meal, and then the class of 2008 was introduced, with a screen showing photos and information about each of the Top 40. She said the event was formal but the info was “fun and lighthearted.”Thiesen said the the process and award has been a “really humbling experience.”“I tend to downplay my accomplishments, so this has been hard for me,” she said. Thiesen said she hopes to serve as a role model for her kids and young people in general through her volunteer work and her work on the city commission.And as someone who has devoted herself to the Newton community, Thiesen hopes the award will serve as inspiration for others that “you don’t have to leave your hometown or your home state to be recognized for good work. You can find your niche where you grow up.”Thiesen has been a Newtonian since she was three. After graduating from Newton High School in 1989, she went to work at Newton Medical Center for a couple of years, opting not to go to college. In 1991, she began an almost-16-year stint at the Newton Area Chamber of Commerce, eventually becoming the director of operations and leadership development.In 2006, Thiesen left the Chamber to start a consulting business with Sheri Buss Rowlands. “It was good timing,” Thiesen said. “It was the right thing to do at the right time.”The two formed Growth Associates to work with business organizations, community leadership programs, and other entities looking to develop 21st century leadership skills. Thiesen works out of her home, and the two have a broad range of clients, from John Deer Corp., Caring Hands Humane Society, the Newton Student Leadership Program, area churches, the Newton Area Board of Realtors, and even the city of Greensburg as it seeks to rebuild following a devasting tornado. But Thiesen hasn’t always visualized herself doing such work. She said in the past, the last thing she wanted to do was talk in front of people. But she said she has experienced “a lot of personal growth in the last five to six years.”Thiesen has also grown more comfortable with her decision not to go to college. In the past, she was not sure if college was for her, yet she also wrestled with whether she had made the right decision in not going. But that indecision is gone.“I feel pretty darn successful with out it,” she said, and she’s proud of where she is today without a college degree. “Just because you have a diploma doesn’t mean you have the skills or drive or understanding.”Thiesen also said she’s proud of the award and what it means. She said there is “some fierce competition” in Wichita to be chosen in the Top 40, so she said to have two Newtonians and a former Newtonian named to the class of 2008 is significant.“It’s hard to admit that it’s a great accomplishment, but I think it is,” she said.