Randy DeBord’s first 50 years proved to be pretty eventful.
The former bass player for a professional, touring synth rock band in the ’80s turned super salesman in the ’90s and then became a successful business owner and downtown Morristown visionary in the years after the turn of the century.
By any measure, the father of two boys accomplished a lot in his first half century of life. However, if DeBord’s first two years of his second half century are indication, we ain’t seen anything yet.
Talking on his cell phone while travelling on business, DeBord recently discussed his career, his feelings of civic responsibility, what the 52-year-old has learned and wants to pass down to the next generation and what the future holds for himself and his booming business, McFarland Medical.
"I feel young still," he said. "I don’t feel like it’s that big of a difference."
One difference is some of the lessons DeBord has learned over the years. Some of those lessons he’d like to share with his sons Rand, 12, and Dylan, 14. One boy is an All-Star baseball player; the other is a budding musician following in his father’s footsteps.
"I think you have a lot more experience at this age," he said. "I feel like I’ve learned a lot over the 50 years. I wish there was some way to pass that on to the next generation, but it seems like they’ve got to learn that for themselves."
The son of George and Anne DeBord, Randy graduated from ETSU and immediately hit the road as a bass player with the band Top Secret. They saw plenty of success as a touring band, including a semi-final run on Ed McMahan’s national talent show "Star Search." (Video of which is available on YouTube).
Though the band never hit the big time in the big hair era, DeBord said the experience was valuable off stage as well.
"There were a lot of business aspects, a lot of business functions we had to do," DeBord said, talking about booking and then negotiating and collecting fees.
After band members went their separate ways, DeBord built a successful career in sales from security systems to copy machines and then legal research resources and websites to attorneys.
Then DeBord found a good opportunity, and a risk, took it and the rest became history.
His uncle and cousin, Ken and Kendrick Smith were starting a pharmacy in Morristown with Kendrick’s friend from pharmacy school, Mike Sigmon.
"I have been richly blessed with good people to work with," he said.
The business quickly grew into long-term medical care suppliers.
In 2004, McFarland Medical opened its durable medical equipment line of walkers, wheelchairs and crutches, an endeavor that expanded quickly and required the company to move into two subsequent locations in Morristown. In 2005, the company opened a Knoxville store. In 2006, the owners moved its two Morristown operations into another larger building.
In 2007, the group bought the historic three-story building located at 167 W. Main in downtown Morristown and began an extensive renovation in partnership with Burke-Ailey Construction. They later purchased a building in Knoxville to help serve the company’s expanding territory.
Eventually the Smiths were bought out, and then DeBord bought out his partner Sigmon.
Now, the business continues to thrive as its innovative leader, one who helped bring solar power to his buildings downtown, continues to explore new opportunities.
"It’s been a busy time because McFarland is doing a lot of growing right now," he said.
The latest venture is a computer system that helps long term care providers track and maintain all the appropriate requirements from regulators so the providers can focus on their patients and not paperwork.
"It’s tough for our customers to do all the regulatory work they have to do," he said.
In addition, McFarland’s services can electronically manage delivery from an electronic prescription through at-the-door delivery, including the appropriate signatures.
"We can tell every phase of that process where the work flow is," he said.
Even though McFarland is growing by leaps and bounds, DeBord believes it is important to give back to the community that supported him, the community to which he returned to raise his family.
He recently completed a year as the Chairman of the Board for the Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce and in August will assume his newly elected position as a Hamblen County Commissioner.
"I do want to give back of my time to a community that’s been great to me," he said. "I just hope that I can help the community to run the county government much as you would a business," he said. "I want to be as conservative as possible. Quite frankly, I feel like the county’s doing a really good job of that already."
DeBord has an optimistic view of the community’s future and hopes that as a commissioner he can help others see all the positives he sees for Morristown and Hamblen County.
"I think we’re going to see some wonderful things happen here," he said. "I really wanted to be a part of that … when the time came to run, my goal was to be able to help influence decisions in a way to encourage long-term growth and stability.
"I think that it is really important for us to be positive because negativity brings negative outcomes and positivity brings positive outcomes. We’re richly blessed in resources. We’ve got some wonderful people that live here. They’re good workers. They’re strong workers."
In fact, DeBord said without his team of workers at McFarland, the business wouldn’t be nearly as successful.
"They held me up while I was doing the Chamber of Commerce job," he said, adding it was tough to take on so much responsibility but he is glad that he did it.
Now, he wants to focus on doing some of the same things for the county as a whole.
"I can see the same thing happening with the community. If we can focus on all the good out there and just grab it, we’re going to be a very successful community. One of the best things I learned from the Chamber of Commerce is that it’s not a perfect world but you’ve got to just work to make the best with what you have.