Featured RUPRI Leader: Cheryal Lee Hills

Cheryal Lee Hills, Executive Director, Region Five Development Commission (R5DC)

Affiliate 501c3 North Central Economic Development Association

With over 25 years of experience in community and economic development, Cheryal currently provides oversight of over three million dollars in project, levy and grant annual income. She oversees a high performing staff of six who deliver a range of professional planning and project management services. She covers a wide array of domains including economic development, business development, local foods and renewable energy, housing, education, and healthcare just to name a few. Cheryal also serves on several local, state and national boards.

Cheryal began as a student of RUPRI’s publications and educational offerings. Fast forward ten years as she currently serves on the State Policy Panel. She is passionate about RUPRI because of the organization’s commitment to rural wealth and prosperity that manages to engage all citizens (both rural and urban) while honoring environmental stewardship. Cheryal states that, “The RUPRI research, transfer of knowledge and relationships inform policy as well as the field of practice, and we know success depends on this nexus.” She is fascinated by the innovations and regional work of RUPRI that help her learn and grow from practitioner colleagues throughout the nation. She feels the most rewarding part about her work is the ability it has to help increase her understanding of national issues and the impact embedded in her rural region. She greatly appreciates the relationships and tools through RUPRI that allow her to engage in work innovatively to address issues in a novel way.

Cheryal has the valuable ability to welcome diverse strengths to meet collective goals. She states that on issues such as local foods, renewable energy, and broadband to the rural last mile, she is deeply committed to rural people. As she truly enjoys her job, Cheryal also considers work one of her hobbies. Outside of this domain, Cheryal has a very large garden the Minnesota woods from which she enjoys canning and drying different foods. Her most favorite thing to do is spend time with her family: Husband of over 30 years, three adult children with their spouses, and one adorable granddaughter. Cheryal enjoys travelling and experiencing new microbreweries and wineries. Cheers to Cheryal as a valuable member of RUPRI!