Strong Women of Mesquite – Terri Rylander
Some women are born strong and some become strong through adversity. Terri is a combination of both. As a first born, her leadership skills come naturally, but she also faced some challenges that have made her a stronger person. Terri is one of those people you are sure you know, but don’t know why. It’s likely because of the things she quietly does for the community.
People have asked Terri what brought her to Mesquite, this tiny jewel in the desert. She says back in 2004, she was reading a golf magazine one day and saw a full-page ad for condos on the golf course for only $99,000. It sounded like a steal and the picture in the ad was gorgeous. Coming down for a weekend trip, she was not disappointed. She went home with a new house.
In her younger years, Terri loved exploring trails in the woods behind her house and going on camping trips every weekend with her family. The Mount Rainier area was her particular favorite. Her father, loving the outdoors himself, taught her how to hike and how to backpack. She still remembers the old external-frame backpacks that were so cumbersome.
One of these backpack trips is particularly memorable. It’s where she met her second family. She lived with her father after her parents divorced at age 10, and when she was 12, he met a woman who also had three children. They introduced the kids on a three-day backpack trip in the North Cascades. Seeing how well they all got along, they married and became a real-life “Brady Bunch.”
This yearning to be near the mountains was another reason Terri came to Mesquite. She loves the wide-open spaces, but also enjoys running around in the nearby Virgin mountains. In doing so, she met some other like-minded friends who introduced her to the group, “Friends of Gold Butte.”
Friends of Gold Butte is a grassroots group of people who got together to care for the Gold Butte area. The volunteer group gives their time to advocate, restore, and educate people about the area, including through speakers at the Mesquite Community Theater and outings to show people the special places in Gold Butte. The group was instrumental in recently gaining national monument status for Gold Butte, adding it to the Conservation Lands system where there will be more access to resources to help support visitation and use.
Terri has served on the board of directors for Friends of Gold Butte since 2009 and is the longest serving member on the board. She has seen the ups and downs of the effort it takes to preserve wonderful places. This journey has taught her to be strong throughout the rough times and that perseverance ultimately pays off. She notes that there are so many special sites in Gold Butte, that it was a “no-brainer” to sign up to be a site steward.
During the late ‘90’s, Terri learned to write code and build websites. It was a natural fit for her love of math and science. And, fortunately, it led to a full-time corporate job. And, as always happens when you’re good, she got promoted from developer to manager of the team to then director of the organization. Life was great until it wasn’t. The company re-organized and Terri’s work environment became miserable. So miserable, she believes it was responsible for her developing breast cancer at the age of 45.
Adversity struck. Terri went through two surgeries and seven weeks of daily radiation. She says it was during this time that she stopped to take a good look at her life. She wasn’t happy and days were slipping by. Not being one to wallow in pity, she did some soul-searching and visioning to figure out how to change things in order to create the happiness she knew she deserved.
Terri took the time to really flesh out a vision of the rest of her life. She thought about what a perfect day would look like. That’s when she came up with a few ideas, including moving to Mesquite. The other big shift was to leave corporate and start freelancing. It took a while to put everything in place, but the vision has been a reality since 2007.
In 2011, Terri was introduced to the Mesquite Senior Games and met Frank Pati, the founder. Using her techie skills, she developed a website for the games and began helping out behind the scenes with marketing and events. She found she really enjoyed meeting active peers and both participating and watching people accomplish things they never thought they could.
After Frank Pati decided to retire in 2014, he asked Terri to take over leadership as president of the Mesquite Senior Games. Terri brought in a new board of directors and has taken the games to the next level, including adding more events and creating a new sponsorship program. Some of the new events do not involve athletic ability, like the History Tour, Poker Tournament, and Shotgun Sports. It’s her goal that everyone in Mesquite knows of the Mesquite Senior Games, even if they don’t participate.
Around the same time, she started playing co-ed softball with the Mesquite Geezers. She says they are a terrific, caring bunch who will do anything for you. Terri says they are like family to her since hers are so far away. Although Terri’s three daughters and one granddaughter have come to visit, being so many miles apart is probably the biggest difficulty she has living in Mesquite.
Terri’s hopes for Mesquite is that it can really capitalize on all of the things the city has to offer. This includes being a destination for team sports, golfers, and Gold Butte tourists. She knows it’s going to take visionary leadership to guide the city toward this and is happy that the city management and businesses of Mesquite seem ready to lead the way.
As much as Terri does for the community, she should be a household name around here. So much of what she does is behind the scenes, her name and face may be familiar to you but you may not have put them together. If this is the first time you have put them together, we hope you’ll thank her the next time you see her, whether it’s at a community event or just out hiking the trails. We definitely appreciate all you do, Terri. Thanks for being such a Strong Woman of Mesquite.