Taking the reins as the new executive director of the National Ranching Heritage Center has brought Jim Bret Campbell’s career full circle.
A “horse crazy kid” who grew up in Hereford, Texas, Campbell has spent the last 19 years working in the horse industry. He worked for the American Quarter Horse Association for 15 years, the Texas Cattle Feeders Association for one year and the National Cutting Horse Association for three years.
Campbell has two degrees from the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and said he is excited to be back at Texas Tech.
“Moving back to Lubbock and West Texas feels like coming home,” he said.
Campbell said even though Lubbock has changed over the past 25 years, he still appreciates his time spent at Texas Tech as a student.
“The foundation that I got here at Texas Tech as a student and the hands-on training I received as an agricultural communications student led me to my first job,” Campbell said. “I had great opportunities when I worked at the AQHA. It led to me being able to edit a magazine, which I never thought I’d do, but it was extremely rewarding. For things to come full circle and bring me back to Lubbock is just incredible to me.”
Campbell said his past experiences have benefited him with his new career.
“My previous jobs were definitely useful toward my new position,” Campbell said. “I oversee the key priorities at the NRHC, but I think my real job is to use the skills and background in marketing and publications that I have learned in other jobs for the NRHC to a certain degree.”
Campbell said his job also entails getting more NRHC members and to increase its visibility nationwide.
A horse enthusiast from a young age, Campbell said he loves ranching, and his new position at the NRHC is exactly where he is supposed to be.
“I have read every horse book known to man,” Campbell said. “As a child, I was addicted to Texas history, especially the period of the cattle drives. For fun, I read biographies of Charles Goodnight and all of those books that talk about how the ranching industry really came into being.”
My professional background coupled with my love for the ranching industry has made this a dream career for me.Jim Bret Campbell
Vicki Quinn-Williams, director of business management at the National Ranching Heritage Center, said Campbell was the absolute right choice for executive director.
“His connections with ranching, as well as Texas Tech gives him the opportunity to represent the center in the best way possible,” Williams said.
Campbell said he has a bold vision for the NRHC, and he expects to contribute to its growth.
“I don’t want to change much,” Campbell said, “but augment what we already do and evaluate all of our programs and things that we do well and really build on those.”
Campbell said he also desires to develop more collaboration with the Texas Tech campus.
“We share a mission with Texas Tech,” Campbell said, “and we need to have more opportunities for students in the history department, architecture, landscape architecture, agricultural communications, animal sciences and many other departments at the university to develop partnerships with us so that we can expand their experiences and show them what we do here at the NRHC.”
Campbell said in addition to creating partnerships with students in different departments, they have industry partnerships with off-campus organizations.
“We have connected with a few groups such as the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers, the American Quarter Horse Association, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association,” Campbell said. “But what I really want is for us to build on those and to make sure we are truly maximizing the effectiveness of those partnerships.”
He said he has another vision, which entails the story of ranching and the cowboy hat.
“The cowboy hat resonates with people, whether in downtown Dallas or in Beijing,” Campbell said. “I’ve traveled internationally, and if you show up in Italy in a cowboy hat, people are going to come up and talk to you. It’s because of your story and what they assume you have grown up with that resonate with people; they appreciate those values and the history of it.”
Campbell said he wants to take the story of the cowboy hat to the public to make sure people understand it and its history.
“I want to create enough interest that people are willing to get on an airplane and come to Lubbock, Texas, just to see the National Ranching Heritage Center and learn about what we are,” Campbell said.
Williams said it is evident how concerned and passionate Campbell is with the NRHC and his career.
“He is very approachable and open to new concepts from anyone,” Williams said. “Also, he truly cares about people, especially the ones he works with.”
Carl Andersen, former executive director of the National Ranching Heritage Center and Sweetwater native, is a close friend of Campbell’s and said there are many things that make him an asset to the center.
“He is a strong Red Raider,” Andersen said. “He has a deep love for the ranching community, he has knowledge of the ranching industry, and he has professional experience in multiple organizations.”
Andersen said before the hiring process for new executive director position started, Campbell was already brought to his attention by famous country singer, Red Steagall.
“He told me a little about Jim Bret,” Andersen said. “He said he knew him through the multiple associations he has worked for and that he was going to turn in an application. He said I needed to take a long and hard look at his application because he’s the man, and he was right.”
Andersen has been on the NRHC executive board for 20 years and said he thinks Campbell is unquestionably perfect for the executive position.
“We had over 30 applicants from all over the world,” Andersen said, “but after going through the process and deciding that Mr. Campbell was the right man for the job, I am absolutely confident that he is.”
Campbell said he is looking forward developing the NRHC and is enjoying Lubbock and being a part of Texas Tech again.
“I feel blessed to have this opportunity,” Campbell said. “Truthfully, I feel like God led me here.”