Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 6:11 PM on Wednesday, July 13, 2011

New executive director hired for Homer Senior Citizens Inc.

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer


Keren Kelley

It's a coming-home for Keren Kelley. Beginning Aug. 1, Kelley will be Homer Senior Citizens Inc.'s new executive director.

"I am so excited to be doing this. This is truly a dream job," said Kelley in a phone interview with the Homer News July 7. "I'm looking forward to coming back home to take care of the seniors and build up the programs and make sure everyone gets to live a good life."

Kelley spent more than three years in Homer as the assistant director of Seldovia Village Tribe Health Center before moving to Cordova where, since 2009, she has been the administrator of the Ilanka Community Health Center. During her time in Cordova, she also served as acting administrator for the Cordova Community Medical Center.

Kelley was selected from a field of six candidates for the HSCI executive director position, according to Fred Lau, former executive director of the nonprofit. Lau has been filling in during the selection process, following the board's dismissal of Sue Samet in March.

"We've met (Kelley). She's a very qualified lady. We're excited about it," said Gert Seekins, vice president of the HSCI board of directors.

"The board of directors acted as a committee of the whole, selected a couple of people (who applied) to interview and they decided that they wanted to move forward right away," said Lau of action taken at a special board meeting June 14.

Born in Oklahoma and raised in Colorado, Kelley earned a master's degree in public administration from University of Alaska Southeast in 2003. She has a nursing home administrator's license and has been active with AGENET, Alaska Geriatric Exchange Network.

Lau said he first met Kelley 15 years ago when she was the director of the senior center in Dillingham, a position she held for more than five years. Between Dillingham and moving to Homer, she was the executive director of the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce in 2003 and the program coordinator beginning in 2004 for LeeShore Center, a 24-hour domestic violence and sexual assault shelter in Kenai.

Although packing and making the move from Cordova to Homer are at the top of Kelley's priority list, once here she can refocus.

"I want to stabilize (HSCI), get everyone's support, learn the programs so I can understand what the issues are and where (the board) wants to go," she said.

A retreat for board members, Kelley and Lau scheduled for July 27 will be a step in that direction. It will be facilitated by Jerry Covey of JSC Consulting of Anchorage, who will address "board relations, roles of the board and the executive director, all of those kinds of issues," said Lau. Among Covey's long list of clients are South Peninsula Hospital and the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. He also is the author of "Board Basics: A Primer for Nonprofit Board Members."

The training is timely, given Kelley's arrival and the election of three new board members — Marjanne Schneider, Jackie Dentz and Merlin Cordes — at the annual membership meeting in May. Prior to the training, it also is anticipated another director will be selected for the nine-member board as a result of director Brenda Steenblock's recent resignation.

"The training is important because it's a good starting point. It gets everyone off on the same foot, the same understanding," said Lau.

Kelley's start date is perfect timing for Lau, whose contract with HSCI ends July 31. This will be the third time he has filled in as interim executive director since retiring in 2009. His plans for the future allow some over-lap with Kelley to help her become familiar with HSCI, but other than that, Lau intends to devote himself to his hobby of restoring automobiles.

"I'm going to spend most of my time in the garage," he told the Homer News, laughing.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben. jackinsky@homernews.com.