Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Big Shoes To Fill

Monday was certainly a hectic one in the Newsroom.  You had former State Senator Randy Hopper arrested again, the first performance report cards for Oshkosh Schools, and Rod Hightower resigning as the President and CEO of the EAA--all within a few hours of each other.  But the story that will likely have the biggest and longest lasting impact on Oshkosh is the resignation of Eileen Connolly-Keesler as President and CEO of the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation.

I've been here in Oshkosh for 12-years now--and every major improvement in Oshkosh (outside of the Highway 41 expansion) featured Eileen in the middle of it.  The Red Arrow Skate Park, the Leach Amphitheater, the Pollock Community Waterpark, the roof repairs at the Grand Opera House and even the renovation of the City Center Hotel all came about through the efforts of the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation.

And there were smaller things as well.  Permanent endowments for the Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Center and the relocation of the Oshkosh Community Pantry into the old Copps store on Jackson Street--both featuring the fingerprints of Eileen Connolly-Keesler.  Along with dozens of other smaller community projects, scholarships and lifestyle enhancements.

Ask anyone who has donated to one of those projects and they will tell you that Eileen was tenacious in her efforts to make things happen.  It's easy to say "I think we should have a Waterpark" or "I think we should have a riverfront amphitheater"--but it's not so easy to sell that idea to those who can fund such projects--and Eileen was one of those people who knew how to sell.  Maybe that is why the folks in Naples, Florida want her to work for them.  If you've ever been to that area, you know there is a whole heck of a lot more money to fund projects and endowments than there is around here.

So the question becomes, who fills those very large shoes?  Who comes in and is immediately able to twist some arms--without causing pain and always with a smile?  Because plenty of challenges still remain.  The hotel project is still looking for five million dollars in private funding.  Oshkosh schools are trying to get an endowment program off the ground that could provide greater access to technology in the classroom and continued funding to extracurricular programs like band, drama and sports. 

So Oshkosh will miss Eileen when she leaves next month.  Hopefully, we don't end up missing her too much.

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