COLUMBIA — Tracy Greever-Rice wasn’t always a civic-minded, information-hungry woman.
Relaxing in her living room chair, the Fourth Ward City Council candidate related stories from her childhood in the Tulsa, Okla., area, where she said her high school peers mirrored the characters in the film "Dazed and Confused." It's a movie Greever-Rice said reminds her of her hometown, a “late 1970s, rural, isolated community, both debauched and thoroughly Bible Belt.”
She also reminisced about college days spent working at Shakespeare's Pizza, and
laughed about the number of times she has seen the Grateful Dead perform.
Greever-Rice, 46, with a doctorate in rural sociology, sat forward, eager to talk about the wealth of data coming out of the 2010 census.
Sitting in her Cape Cod-style home in the middle of the Quarry Heights neighborhood, Greever-Rice's blonde curls cascaded over her shoulders while she played with her hands and searched for the right words to describe why she and her first husband, David Dranginis, parted ways.
Greever-Rice will be the first to admit that hers isn't the most gripping tale of adventure, heartfelt romance or a tear-jerking rags-to-riches story. She might also be selling herself short.
Growing up in Tulsa
"Tulsa was booming when I was growing up there in the '70s," Greever-Rice said.
Although she was born in Emporia, Kan., a town 100 miles south of Interstate 70 with a population of more than 18,000 according to the 1960 census, Greever-Rice spent the majority of her childhood in and near Tulsa.
Greever-Rice smiled as her 12-year-old son, Charlie, pulled out her Claremore High School yearbooks.
“Have you ever seen the movie 'Dazed and Confused'?” Greever-Rice said. “That’s what it was like going to high school in Oklahoma in the '70s. It was like, man, I knew those people.”
The teenage Greever-Rice, she said, passed the time in high school as a member of the marching band and the newspaper staff, and she generally stayed out of trouble.
Of course, she was no perfect angel. Greever-Rice remembered her parents strictly forbidding her from riding a motorcycle. She also remembered the pain involved when her friend Christie tried to teach her how to ride one.
“I drove it right into the tree,” Greever-Rice said. “I think (Christie) was more worried about the motorcycle, but I ended up breaking my tailbone.”
She said she stood in pain for two months because she was afraid of getting in trouble.
“They were sympathetic but less than thrilled with my behavior (when they found out),” Greever-Rice said. “I think they found it a sort of fitting self-punishment.”
Greever-Rice left behind her days as a Claremore High Zebra in 1981 to study journalism at MU. With a passion for writing, she thought a journalism degree would be a “good jumping-off point.” But one summer class between her freshman and sophomore years quickly changed her direction.
“I took a sociology class with Richard Hessler,” Greever-Rice said. “It was fabulous. We got to go out and do field work, and it just really clicked with me.”
Greever-Rice graduated from MU with a degree in sociology in 1985. But she has returned to the journalism school as a graduate student with an emphasis in investigative reporting.
“If I retire here in the next 10 to 15 years,” Greever-Rice said, “I think computer-assisted reporting will be the norm in the field. I think if you put my existing work and computer-assisted reporting skills together that I’ll do quite well.”
A love for music
"I'm not ashamed of being a former Deadhead," Greever-Rice said with a grin. "Not even a little."
From 1985 to 1995, Greever-Rice said she saw the Grateful Dead around 30 times, a little more than 1 percent of the roughly 2,300 shows the band played.
After graduating from MU, Greever-Rice moved to Boston, worked for the marketing researching firm Cambridge Reports and "saw the Dead up and down the East Coast."
Music entered her life at a much earlier age. She spent many nights at the Tulsa Civic Center while growing up and saw bands such as Supertramp, Kansas and REO Speedwagon.
"I'm not necessarily proud of it musically," Greever-Rice said, "but all of those big sort of '70s and '80s bands, that was it, that was what we had to do."
When she first made her way to MU, Greever-Rice even hosted a radio show on KCOU called ''Country Morning.'' The college radio station gave her a card that gave her free access to many of the shows at the Blue Note.
“You could just go for a beer and see whoever was playing," Greever-Rice said.
Back to Columbia
It didn't take Greever-Rice long to sour on her job at Cambridge Reports in Boston.
"I loved the research and hated the marketing. It felt really sleazy ultimately," Greever-Rice said. "Most of our clients were in the utility industry and were building nuclear power plants."
She said it wasn’t so much nuclear power that she didn’t like; it was the firm's practices.
“I had to spend a great deal of my time explaining why my company was doing push polling to citizens who were rightfully concerned about the impact of a nuclear power plant in their community," she said.
Greever-Rice's love for research persuaded her to pursue a master’s degree in community development and a doctorate in rural sociology with an emphasis on community economic development.
"It was kind of coincidental that one of the best programs was back in Columbia, in terms of community development," Greever-Rice said.
Greever-Rice had planned to join the Peace Corps when she completed her master’s degree in 1993, but she became pregnant with her first child, Kate, in 1991 and had to change plans.
Greever-Rice was also pregnant with her second child, Charlie, while she was finishing her doctorate.
"She got very morning sick while trying to get her dissertation done," said Rex Campbell, a former Fourth Ward councilman and an MU professor of rural sociology. "She ran right up next to the deadline."
Campbell, who is now Greever-Rice's campaign treasurer, said it was interesting working with Greever-Rice while she was his research assistant.
"Tracy is a very bright, very energetic person who had no hesitation to approach (a problem) from a different manner," Campbell said.
Greever-Rice now works for the MU Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis, an organization that interprets data and releases the census for Missouri. Specifically, she analyzes demographic, health and socio-economic data on children, helps pen a report on Missouri seniors and is beginning research on the status of Missouri women.
The 50,000-point challenge
"It's a lovely thing being in love with your best friend," Greever-Rice said, shifting her eyes to her husband, Glenn Rice.
Rice and Greever-Rice had known each other before Greever-Rice's children were born, but it wasn't until after Greever-Rice was divorced from her first husband that the two realized the potential of their friendship.
"We like to spend as much time together as we can," Rice said. Often, there's a Scrabble board between them.
“Glenn and I have an ongoing 50,000-point Scrabble challenge,” Greever-Rice said. “We've played like 120 games. Our average is within .05 points. The winner, the first one to 50,000, gets to pick a vacation anywhere.”
Greever-Rice said she's winning, with more than 30,000 points. “Istanbul is high on my list for places I've wanted to go. I think it's a fascinating place, and we've always talked about visiting.”
Although Greever-Rice said she and her husband try hard to spend time together, their busy lives sometimes prevent it.
Rice, who works for the MU Division of Information Technology, serves on the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission. That's a familiar post for Greever-Rice, who served a three-year term from 1995 to 1998 on the same commission. Greever-Rice also is vice chairwoman of the Columbia Visioning Commission and an alternate on the Board of Adjustment, which rules on requests for variances from city ordinances.
“I was raised in a family with a strong value in public service,” Greever-Rice said. “When I bought my first house in Benton-Stephens, … when I started living over there and being a homeowner trying to protect my property value, I started to learn more and more about land use and how it works. It really fascinated me."