Rick Rhodes is the 2017 recipient of the prestigious Outstanding Rural Advocate Award. This Award recognizes individuals who have been a strong voice our rural way of life and have made great strides in protecting that lifestyle. Throughout his entire professional life, Rick Rhodes has been an advocate for rural Texas and the importance of rural communities working together. While serving as mayor of Sweetwater, he became an enthusiastic leader in the effort to establish a regional alliance of rural communities around Abilene. Through his visionary leadership Texas Midwest Community Network was founded in 1994. He served as the president of TMCN in the first 2 years of its development working with others in the region who shared his vision and enthusiasm. But all who worked with him on the founding of TMCN would agree that he was the driving force behind many of the ideas that created the foundation for the organization. After retiring from his business endeavors in Sweetwater, Rick & Pam relocated to Austin to be closer to their sons and grandchildren. He took a position in the Governor’s Office for Economic Development & Tourism. While there he became the “go-to-guy” on all opportunities for rural cities. He then transferred to the Texas Department of Agriculture and became the Director of Rural Affairs for the agency. While serving in state agency positions, Rick never missed an opportunity to promote TMCN as well as the concept of “rural communities working together to accomplish what one community cannot do alone”. Many elected officials have heard him expound on the fine example that Texas Midwest Community Network is as an effective regional organization. Many rural local leaders around the state have heard him encourage regionalism to address their needs. No one in the state has been a stronger or more effective advocate for rural Texas than Rick Rhodes.