Bob, one of eight children, grew up in a two-story home on a tree-lined street in Sheldon, Iowa. His dad, a World War II Veteran who ran his own business, worked hard to care for his family. Bob learned the values of hard work and honesty from his Mom and Dad.
Bob was an outgoing basketball star in high school, playing in the state basketball tournament his senior year. Those who knew him say that, even then, he wanted to make a difference in people's lives.
In his senior year of high school, Bob began dating his future life-partner, Darla Granstra. They had completed thirteen years of school together; nursery, elementary, junior high, and three years of high school. It was during their senior year that they began discovering their future. It was Darla who awoke the awareness in Bob that the future was full of exciting challenges and great opportunities. In Bob's words, "Darla was responsible for raising my expectations for life."
Both stayed close to home after high school graduation, attending Northwestern College in Orange City where Bob received a basketball scholarship and Darla received a music scholarship. In the summer prior to their junior year, they were married.
Bob pursued a career as an educator, saying "I fell in love with teaching because I saw the difference I could make in the lives of kids."
His first teaching job was in Boone, teaching business courses at Boone High School, while Darla began working as a certified public accountant.
Two years later they moved to Jefferson when Bob was recruited to teach business and become their head basketball coach. Bob loved teaching and coaching, and also started a landscaping business. Their first two sons, Hans and Josh, were born in Jefferson and Darla chose to stay at home with them.
At twenty-nine years old, Bob's leadership qualities resulted in a big promotion when he received an offer to become the new principal of Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn High School. The position gave him an even greater opportunity to lead, and he flourished. The success he experienced resulted in a call from his home town of Sheldon, asking Bob to join their staff as the Sheldon High School principal.
Bob went on to earn master's and specialist's degrees in the area of educational leadership from Drake University. His leadership ability was evident and his advancement rapid as he served both students and teachers.
In 1993, Bob and Darla's third son, Lucas, was born with a serious and rare brain disorder. He would be severely handicapped and require constant care for the rest of his life. "If it hadn't been for the miracle of Lucas," Bob says, "we would have never looked beyond where we were." Four years later, their fourth son, Logan, was born and completed the creation of a very special family.
Another unexpected offer came in 1996, when Bob was sought after to become the President and Chief Executive Officer of Opportunities Unlimited, a health and human services organization, providing rehabilitative services for young adults with brain or spinal cord injuries, or other life-altering disabilities. OU needed a strong leader to motivate employees, raise funds and provide a strategic vision with attainable goals. Bob accepted the challenge and, in four short years, turned a struggling entity into one of the top service providers of its type in the United States, with a net assets increase of four hundred and forty percent and the highest accreditation from The Commission on Accreditation for Rehabilitation Facilities - Brain Injury (CARF). With Bob's leadership, the organization's design and program delivery were referred to as the model in the country for serving people with disabilities.
In 2002, Bob led a positive and energetic campaign for governor. Although he narrowly lost his first bid for public office, he was highly successful in building a statewide organization which remains motivated and continues to grow. In 2006, he was the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor. And, he gained national attention as the state chair of Mike Huckabee's winning campaign in the 2008 Iowa presidential precinct caucuses.
Bob is currently president of MVP Leadership, Inc., which specializes in strategic vision and executive leadership for business and industry, economic development, education, health care, human services, and private foundations.
His professional and personal accomplishments have received high recognition. In March 2002, he was noted as one of the "40 Under 40" – the 40 most influential people under 40 years of age in the Siouxland Region by The Sioux City Journal. In the fall of 2000, Northwestern College bestowed upon Bob the honor of "Distinguished Alumni" for his professional achievement.
Bob Vander Plaats' entire career has been about maximizing the potential of the people and institutions around him. His life experiences, integrity, and track record of achievement make him a candidate that we can trust to lead us into the future with excellence.