New Miss America President Josh Randle never expected to be in charge of the most recognizable pageant in the world.
And now he wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
Randle, 29, became the youngest president in the organization’s history in May after being promoted from his role as chief operating officer.
He’s now in charge of the day-to-day operations of the Miss America Organization, promoting everything it has to offer and ensuring its steady future as the largest scholarship foundation for women in the United States.
“It’s the last thing I ever expected to be doing, but I’m so glad to be here,” he said. “Life is a series of doors that open, and you run through them.”
Randle hails from Amory, Mississippi, a tiny town of about 7,000 that grew around a train station plunked midway between Nashville, Tennessee, and Birmingham, Alabama. He graduated from the University of Mississippi in 2010 and then helped establish the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Foundation in the United States, one of the British royal family’s principal charities. The award benefits youth around the world and aims to assist them in education regardless of background, culture, physical ability, skills and interests.
It was the award foundation’s association with Miss America that led Randle to meet Sam Haskell, the CEO of the organization.
Haskell, originally of Mobile, Alabama, took over the Miss America Organization in late 2005 when the future of the pageant was in doubt.
ABC had just dropped the competition because of low ratings, and the organization seemed out of place in Las Vegas after leaving Atlantic City.
In the 12 years since, Miss America has returned to Atlantic City, and the competition is annually broadcast on ABC after making the rounds on TLC and CMT.
When Haskell promoted Randle in May, he said the organization was in the hands of “bright young people” and its future was secure.
Some of the immediate issues Randle faces are a declining participation rate among local pageants and the stigma of pageants around the country being defined just as beauty contests.
“It’s about making Miss America relevant,” he said. “It’s not just a beauty pageant. We’re a community service organization, we’re a movement for empowering young women ... and I think that’s where it starts.”
One idea the organization has been actively pursuing is raising more money so more contestants have a chance to win larger scholarships.
Another initiative has been the es tablishment of the Centennial Club, which is an exclusive club that engages the organization’s top donors around the country.
For every member who signs up, the Miss America Organization gives out 100 tickets to youth around the Atlantic City area. In its first year in 2015, the organization gave out more than 1,400 tickets.Randle said the club has grown ever since. This year, the organization will distribute 1,800 tickets.
Randle said he believes the club was a small beacon of light in Atlantic City when it was dealing with the closing of casinos and a high unemployment rate.
“Atlantic City is in a much better place than it was a few years ago when all those casinos were closing, jobs were being lost and there wasn’t a whole lot of hope for a lot of people,” he said. “But when that happened we started to think of ways we could use the Miss America crown to help empower and inspire the young people that are in Atlantic City and South Jersey.”
In a couple of weeks the competition and the pomp and circumstance around the city will be gone, but Randle and the rest of the organization won’t get much time off before they start preparing for next year.
“It’s a process,” Randle said. “The planning for the Miss America Competition starts in November the year prior. It never stops for us.”