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Zac Stombaugh

Leadership and Humility

By Raphael Maurice

“It takes humility to look back on our harder experiences and to admit they were good for us.”

Zac Stombaugh was born and raised in Vandalia. He was the quarterback of the football team, played baseball, and played basketball. “I was all-around athletic,” he tells us. He earned his degree in Mechanical Engineering from SIUE in 2004. Zac then worked briefly for the family business, Stombaugh Heating and Air Conditioning, which began in 1911 and spans five generations.

It was in 2006 that Zac moved to Tampa, Florida, where he worked as a liaison between the engineering manufacturing department and the sales department of a large company. But he found himself often returning to Vandalia on weekends, coming home from Florida when he could. Vandalia was and is home, and when Zac started talking to his father about returning for good and working again in the family business, the wheels, as it were, were in motion. In the end, the talks and the ultimate decision to come home again made them both happy, and when his father retired in 2020, Zac took the helm of the company. But that’s the funny thing about decisions. There’s a good deal of faith intertwined with them. As Zac puts it, “You kind of have to leave the result up to God or whatever is going to make that decision for you.” In other words, we might choose our decisions, but we don’t choose each and every result. Returning to Vandalia, it turns out, was a great decision that had and still has great results for everyone involved with Zac Stombaugh, for everyone who’s touched by his presence.

Tampa wasn’t all bad, though. While he lived there, Zac met his wife, Kristin, a transplant from Michigan. They now live in Vandalia with their two children, Hannah and Brayden. Facts aside, one of the many amazing things about Zac is his nearly miraculous humility. It’s one of the things that makes him a born leader, husband, father, community member, and all-around special human being.

Today, Zac coaches Brayden’s baseball team. He watches Hannah play softball. He loves the small-town feel of Vandalia, and he knows that the teachers that help his own children are really helping. While Vandalia might be a far cry from Tampa, that’s just fine. Zac’s own time spent playing sports here was a time of life lessons, learning that hardships and discipline are just as important as big wins under floodlights and features in newspaper articles. While he admits he didn’t always see the complete point of everything his coaches were attempting to foster in him, he looks back through a different lens now. As far as the rules that his coaches made Zac and his comrades follow, he notes, “You thought those were restrictions that you wanted to break, and now you look back and think, ‘That was one of the lessons that I should learn that I wasn’t mature enough to accept at the time.’” Again, it takes humility to look back on our harder experiences and to admit they were good for us. Zac knows this, though, and he fully admits it. He’s a born leader and a leader made through his life lessons and experiences.

Zac is also assistant chief of the volunteer fire department. He helps wherever and whenever he can. To hear him speak is to hear a deep, pleasant voice that never pushes itself forward, but rather understates his own role and importance to Vandalia and the world around him. This guy’s got it all, and through work and dedication (always understated), he’s home again, and we’re all better off for it. Zac’s miracle, again, is his lack of pridefulness and complete absence of vanity or all for the spotlight. There’s no doubt his own family is proud of him, as they should be. There’s also no doubt that he, somewhere deep inside, is rightfully proud, too. But Zac, a leader and cornerstone, so to speak, of Vandalia, wouldn’t brag about this or anything else. Real leaders don’t need to. Like Zac, they make living quietly and acting on the things that matter a virtue, and they do it in a way that seems effortless. It’s a miracle, really.

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