LEEDS — Dee Dowdy says he spent 20 years in retail management before hearing the call to ministry.

“I had worked for K-Mart and Eckerd Drug,” he said. “We were attending Taylor United Methodist Church, and the Lord started calling me into ministry.”

Dowdy, now 53, has been following that call ever since: to Chelsea, where he worked as a student minister; to Kentucky, where he served churches while attending Asbury Theological Seminary; and, since 2004, to the itineracy of the United Methodist Church in the North Alabama Conference, which has brought him to First United Methodist in Leeds.

“I’m really enjoying it,” he said. “We’ve got a great bunch of folks.”

Dowdy, a native of Gadsden, has been on the job in Leeds since the end of June. He said his favorite thing about the church thus far is its heart for the community.

“I think this church has great potential,” he said. “Our people are doing a lot for the community, and we have a great opportunity to serve the Kingdom.”

Dowdy’s family is one built around ministry. His wife, Bridget, is also a United Methodist pastor — she was recently appointed to Pleasant Grove United Methodist.

“We both grew up in the United Methodist Church,” he said. “We really love it.”

Between the two of them, Dowdy says they have seven children, ranging in age from 32-21, and eight grandchildren, ranging in age from 11 years, to 1.

Leeds FUMC is located on U.S. 78.