For the last 15 years, Susan Nielsen has been a positive influence for children and teenagers in Alpena. As the executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Alpena she has always made it her mission to provide a safe, secure, loving and fun club for the members.
Today will be Nielsen's last day working at the club as she has decided to retire to spend more time with her family, enjoy her hobbies and to continue to focus on the city as a member of the Alpena Municipal Council. Brad Somers, who has worked under the tutelage of Nieslen at the club, has been hired to take over the director's role.
Nielsen said the time is right for her to retire because the club, its membership and finances are doing well. She said she is happy she was able to help the club be what it is today.
"Now is the time because we have a very strong board, I knew there was a very strong candidate to take my place, our membership is up and our financial situation has leveled out," Nielsen said. "I know the strong board and staff will be able to continue what is happening now quite well."
Even though she is retiring from the club, Nielsen said she has no intention of moving out of the area. She said Alpena is her home and there is no place else she would rather be. Nielsen said now more focus can be put on spending time with family and doing things they enjoy.
"This is 'Vacation Land' to me. My husband and I have been here for almost 27 years and we're quite happy and plan on spending the rest of our lives here," Nielsen said. "We have hobbies, so I'll have more time to enjoy them and also spend more time with our children and grandchildren."
Grant Kessler is the president of the board. He said Nielsen has played a large role in helping to make the club a better place for children and has also helped stabilize the board that oversees it.
"She has influenced a lot in terms of developing the board and making it a board that is much stronger now than what it was three or four years ago," Kessler said. "The employees at the club are also a stronger group. They are much more mature and development of the staff also helps in making some good decisions and some hard decisions that needed to be made by the board over the last year."
Kessler said the board did its due diligence in looking for a replacement for Nielsen. He said there were many candidates that were considered, but in the end the best person for the job was Somers.
"We knew Brad quite well and he had been a leader, but we didn't stay with that," Kessler said. "We interviewed several dozen people from all around the state and even outside of it. The more people we spoke to the more value Brad seemed to add to the table as to being executive director and that's a plus. Susan always had a very youthful approach to everything and it is hard to find an adult that is so youthful and energetic. Brad brings that to the table as well."
Somers said he is excited and a bit nervous because he realizes he has big shoes to fill. He said he is going to take a lot of the things he has been taught by Nielsen and apply them.
"I'm still excited, but I know there is a lot of work to be done, so I'm a little anxious too, but it is a good anxious," Somers said. "I know I have some big shoes to fill. Susan has been a mentor for me for a number of years. She believed in me when I started as an Americorp volunteer right out of high school and she believes in me now. I have been with the Boys and Girls Club for 13 years, because of the relationship I have with Susan and the kids. I'm looking forward to continuing what Susan has brought to the club."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.