After nearly 40 years as an agent with State Farm Insurance, Randy Bauer will say farewell to the office — but not to Chadron — On December 31.
Bauer started working for State Farm in March of 1983, previously working for Chadron State College four nine years prior in three different positions. He first was an admissions counselor, then became the director of student life. In the last five years he was the director of student admissions.
As to why he moved from working at the college to insurance, Bauer said career advancement in a college scenario requires different degrees. Were he to stay in education, he would’ve needed to get a degree elsewhere, and he didn’t want to leave Chadron.
A good friend of his when he was in college was a manager for State Farm and offered him the opportunity to be an agent in Chadron.
“I knew nothing,” Bauer said, “and would never have taken it if it wasn’t for the fact that I trusted him completely. I was leaving the security of a nice job and jumping into something completely unknown. It was really a leap of faith.” The decision proved to be a good one.
Though most know Bauer’s office on Mani Street, he wasn’t always there. He moved in after about three years with State Farm. Before that, he and the other Chadron agent had an office together where the current Farm Bureau office is. The space became too small for two agents, and Bauer’s current office building became available so he moved there in 1986.
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After the move, he found out from Bob Zahm, a policyholder, that Zahm’s father Ed was the first State Farm agent in Chadron and set up his office in the same building. “It was meant to be for State Farm to go back to that office.
As for his decision to retire, Bauer said the time was right. He turned 70 in August, and his wife Lorrie retired about three years ago from teaching at Chadron High School for 40 years. The couple hasn’t been able to travel as much as they want, and they plan to spend more time with their three sons in South Dakota, Maryland and Colorado and four granddaughters.
But the Bauers aren’t leaving Chadron, and though they might travel to some warmer climes for a few weeks during the winter they have no interest in becoming “snow birds,” committing to one place and going there every winter.
With Bauer’s retirement, it will leave Trace Strotheide the only State Farm agent in town. That decision came from the company, Bauer noted. Since before he became an agent, State Farm decided in the late 1970s to have two agents. Ed Zahm had passed away, and had built too nice of a business to turn over to one agent. Since then, there have been two agents in Chadron.
“I’ll bet, if Chadron’s not the only town of 5,500 in the country that has two State Farm agents, there’s maybe just a handful of others,” Bauer said. “As a general rule, a town this size would not have two agents.” He further added when the decision was made to have two agents the railroad was still strong and possibly expanding, and the population was forecast to reach 10,000.
Bauer had found it hard for him to complain about there being two agents, because if there wasn’t he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to become one.
Strotheide recently moved into the new office on East Highway 20, and all of Bauer’s policyholders will transfer to him. “Everything will seamlessly move over to him, it’s just the name of the agent will change,” Bauer said.
Strotheide is also hiring Bauer’s office manager, Stacy Fry, to ease the transition even more. “They’re all familiar with her, she’s familiar with them,” Bauer said, “and that front office person is the one most people deal with anyway.” He added people often objected to his retirement when they found out about it, until they knew they could still work with Fry.
Bauer is very grateful for the opportunity, and to his policyholders. “State Farm customers tend to be very loyal, and I appreciate that loyalty, to State Farm and to me. It’s been a privilege to serve as the State Farm agent for my policyholders, and I’m grateful for their loyalty and trust over the years.”