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Tim Skubitz: Ketchup and kids are in his veins

by Brian Walker
| November 4, 2012 8:00 PM

IN PERSON

Tim Skubitz's labor of love is being around kids.

Growing up in Seattle, he was the middle child of five and his home was a magnet for youth.

"Our house was always full of kids, whether it was neighborhood friends or any of our 19 cousins," Skubitz said.

He's been working for McDonald's, another kid-friendly spot, for 34 years. He worked at the restaurant throughout his high school years and is now the owner-operator of McDonald's in Rathdrum, Newport and northwest Spokane that have a combined 140 employees.

And, staying around children, Skubitz has served on the Lakeland School Board in Rathdrum since 2008.

"Terri (wife) and I were given the opportunity to purchase the Rathdrum and Newport McDonald's restaurants in 2002," Skubitz said. "We moved our family to the Rathdrum area and have loved it ever since. The community and surrounding areas are a perfect place to raise a family."

Skubitz's community involvement has been far-reaching.

In addition to the school board, he was recently elected vice president of the Rathdrum Area Chamber of Commerce and is a past president of the Lakeland Sunrise Rotary. He's also been involved in the Spokane chapter of the Ronald McDonald House.

McDonald's in Rathdrum sponsors Big Wheel races during Rathdrum Days, honors kids for perfect attendance and academic improvement, hosts a fundraiser for schools called McTeacher Night, partners with the Rathdrum Library's summer reading program and is active with the Parks and Recreation Department.

"A fundamental philosophy of McDonald's is to give back to the communities in which we do business, whether it's time, talent or treasure," Skubitz said. "We try to be involved with as many events within the community that we can."

Do you have any personal memories of how McDonald's impacted you as a youth?

I can clearly remember how proud I was when I received a certificate or ribbon that recognized my accomplishments during my youth. I would proudly display the award on my bedroom wall and take pride in the successes of my efforts. I once received a free skate pass to the local roller skating rink as a prize in the fourth grade and kept that certificate/coupon in my wallet for many years. I would imagine that this special moment hits every kid at some time. A child's span of time within a lifetime is so small we should try to make it as memorable for them as we can. Because of this we put a lot of our efforts behind the elementary schools.

What are some misconceptions about McDonald's - with it being a corporate giant and all - that aren't true?

Most people think of McDonald's as some sort of corporate giant that has thousands of corporate restaurants nationwide. In reality, nearly 90 percent of McDonald's 14,000 U.S. restaurants are independently owned and operated by local business men and women. Another misconception is that our food is not good for you. This is simply not true. About 80 percent of the McDonald's national menu items are less than 400 calories. We use premium ingredients that you could find at your local grocery store and prepare at home. A balanced diet is key to a healthy lifestyle.

What has kept you working for McDonald's for 34 years?

That's an easy one ... the food is so yummy. More importantly, it's the people. I really enjoy working with people. Thirty-four years in the industry is not so rare, there are folks that have been at it a lot longer. The industry has a saying that "you've got ketchup in your veins." Well, I guess that's me.

With 140 employees at three locations, how do you try to shrink that world so it's more on a personal level?

I try to remember everyone's name. It's a bit tough at times, but I feel that it's important. Most of us come into this world with nothing more than the skin on our bones, the love of our family and our names. That's why I try to remember. I feel very fortunate that we have several employees that have been with us since we became McDonald's owner/operators more than 10 years ago.

Have you ever been Ronald McDonald?

I think that we all know that there is only one Ronald McDonald.

What is Ronald's focus these days in a constant-changing world? Explain.

Ronald actually has the corporate title of CHO - chief happiness officer. He has always been an ambassador of fun for children, families and the brand. He also is a part of our local market programs around anti-bullying, friendship and well-being through activity.

Why did you decide to run for the Lakeland school board when you only had your youngest daughter left in high school?

I ran for the school board Zone 3 trustee position because I was asked. The former trustee, Don Soltman, was not seeking another term so I stepped in at that time. With our youngest daughter still attending Lakeland High School, I believed that I had some familiarity of the school system to run for the trustee position.

Has your experience on the school board been different than you thought it would be going in? Why or why not?

My experience on the school board is not so different than other boards that I've served. An asset to me was that I attended a course called Nonprofit Leadership offered by Gonzaga University a few years ago that really emphasized the roles and responsibilities of boards and board members. That has been most valuable. It helps to have a great superintendent, Dr. Mary Ann Ranells, as the lead to the district. We have a very competent staff at the district and a mantra of "The Lakeland Way" that keeps us grounded.

Any surprises during your time on the school board and, if so, explain?

Most people don't realize the complexity or understanding of the finances it takes to run a public school system. The money that's allocated to a school year is determined by the enrollment for that specific school year, but yet the school district must set their budget before they know what the enrollment will be. So it becomes a quasi-logical guess. It's always disheartening to have students come before the board for expulsion hearings. There aren't many, but it breaks your heart. The teachers and administrators put in more time than I ever would have imagined. I wish that my kids were young again so I could be more involved with their schools.

Why did you decide to move to Rathdrum and what has that been like?

Our three daughters were still in school so we did some homework on the Internet and found that the Lakeland School District was one of the better school districts in the area. This became the determining factor. It was a bit of a culture shock for us moving from the coast. We quickly learned that the quality of life that we value is a product of what we do as a community together. The Rathdrum community is full of caring people and organizations that work together to make things happen. There's a huge "can-do" attitude in this town. A prime example of this has been the Rathdrum Relay for Life that Tamie Phelps was able to make very successful with its inception in 2011. Other examples are the Skate Park on Main Street or most recently KTEC (Kootenai Technical Education Campus). There are so many amazing people that work and live in this community. It's truly inspirational to be part of that group. Our favorite movie at home is "It's a Wonderful Life." We feel a real parallel to this movie with where we live. The parallel is also helped with the abundance of snow that we get. You've gotta love it.

What is the Rotary club's current focus?

We volunteer in our own communities and abroad to support education, provide clean water, combat hunger, improve health and sanitation and eradicate polio. Locally we grant scholarships to students and support numerous community events. Our local club has been working on upgrading the Lakeland Rotary Soccer Field adjacent to Lakeland Junior High School. Providing scoreboards for the field is the current endeavor.

What are some things that most people don't know about you?

I can't sing and I don't dance. I've tried to play the banjo, but can't sit still long enough to practice.