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New leader for Bishop’s biggest annual event

September 11, 2013

Tammy Mandrell, who has served as a Mule Days volunteer since 2000, has taken over as Mule Days executive director. Photo by Barbara Laughon

Bishop’s Mule Days Executive Committee has named Tammy Mandrell as Bishop Mule Days’ new Executive Director.
Mandrell assumed her new role on Sept. 3.
Mule Days Executive Board President Dan Dean said that while Mandrell is a welcome addition to the Mule Days office, she is not new to the Mule Days event.
“We have an outstanding 13-year volunteer now in charge of our office and as such in charge of Mule Days, and I could not be happier,” Dean said. “I truly feel we have the right person at the right time. Tammy understands Mule Days, she understands the importance of Mule Days, and like so many of our volunteers, she bleeds Mule Days. Her contributions to Mule Days and to this community will only be positive.”
Born and raised in the Mid West, Mandrell developed an affinity for equines at a young age and took every opportunity to be near horses.
After earning a degree in Education from the University of Toledo, Mandrell moved to the West Coast in 1989, and subsequently earned a Master of Arts degree in Confluent Education – a meld of organizational theory, education administration and psychology – from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Her career led her to teach at Santa Barbara County Court and Community schools, a private Christian school as the technology teacher, and most recently as an academic support tutor for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.
While living in the Santa Ynez Valley, Mandrell met Wymond Eckhardt, a member of the Mule Days Executive Board, and developed a deep, long-standing friendship while she boarded her horse on his ranch for many years.
“Wymond and I spent countless hours talking about many things in great detail, but mostly about his dedicated passion to Mule Days,” Mandrell explained. “Infected with his enthusiasm I attended my first Mule Days as a spectator in the late 1990s.”
By 2000 Mandrell was volunteering for the Mule Days Barns and Stalls Committee. “After my first volunteer experience, I found every available opportunity to volunteer more time and more days before and during the Mule Days event,” Mandrell said.
Mandrell soon found herself heading up one of the event’s subcommittees. Her dedication to the event was recognized in 2010 when she was named Committeeperson of the Year. Over the last decade Mandrell found herself falling in love with Bishop and the Eastern Sierra, exploring employment opportunities, and occasionally, allowing herself to browse the area’s real estate offerings.
The seemingly inevitable came to fruition for Mandrell in July when Mule Days found itself in need of a new administrator.
“My love of Mule Days, passion for the outdoors and long-standing desire to become a part of the Bishop community inspired me to apply and accept the Executive Director,” Mandrell said. “I look forward working in conjunction with the staff, Executive Board and volunteers to make the 45th Mule Days the best and most memorable of all.”
Mandrell joins existing Mule Days staff members Monicka Watterson, who serves as the event’s Show Secretary, and D.J. Loyd, who is the event’s Operations Manager.
Established in 1969, the Bishop Mule Days Celebration is considered by many to be the nation’s premier mule show. The six-day celebration spotlights the talent and diversity of mules, plus the often unsung skills of backcountry packers. The event is put on every Memorial Day weekend by 300-plus volunteers who come from local church, school, social and service organizations. These volunteers help staff the event, and in return, their organizations receive a portion of Mule Days’ proceeds. This money helps the groups offset their own fund-raising efforts.
The 2014 Bishop Mule Days is set for May 20-25. Tickets for 2014 will go on sale Feb. 1.

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