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Boys and Girls Club director steps down

Littls takes same position in Washington

Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2001

After six years serving as the executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula, Suzanne Little is giving up her position and her life in Alaska to move with her husband, Mark Burgener, and 5-year-old daughter, Hattie, to Sequim, Wash., where she will be executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula.

Little and Burgener are leaving Kenai in early October to be closer to their fathers, both of whom have Parkinson's disease.

Little was offered the position in Sequim by the regional Boys and Girls Clubs national service director after she began letting people know she was interested in relocating. The program has a smaller budget and serves fewer kids than the Kenai Peninsula program, but the general mission and structure of the organization will be the same.

"I really feel like I've found what I was meant to do," Little said. "I have a degree in landscape architecture and have spent a lot of time in the planning realm. Even though I loved that work and it meant a lot to me, it's nothing like this work at the Boys and Girls Clubs. My heart is happy in this work, so I wanted to remain in the Boys and Girls Clubs realm."

So far, Little has only spent two days in her soon-to-be new home town. She said she can find her way to work but still has a lot to learn.

"I'm looking forward to it," she said. "It's one of those things that has everything in it -- a little bit of fear, a little bit of excitement, a little bit of hope, a little bit of sorrow about missing all the incredible people here. We're going through a very full experience trying to make the transition."

Once settled in her new position, Little plans to continue the same growth trend she helped effect in the Kenai program.

"First I need to figure out what plans the board (in Sequim) has set in place," Little said. "But I would say that, yes, we will be serving more kids there. It's just a matter of figuring out the funding to pay the staff to serve the kids."

During her time with the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula, the organization has quadrupled its budget and number of sites. Six years ago the Kenai club was the only one on the peninsula. Now there are sites in Homer and Seldovia and five after-school programs operating in Soldotna. The number of kids served by the program has risen from 1,000 to 2,500.

"Suzanne joined the club in 1995 and since then our club has basically grown like crazy," said Mike Navarre, president of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula board of directors.

"Through it all, she's done a tremendous job of organizing the staff and the club, recruiting good staff members and giving them the positive direction on a day-to-day basis that has resulted in us being able to serve a tremendous number of kids on the peninsula."

Navarre also credits Little for helping secure both local and national grants to fund and expand their many programs.

"I can't say enough good things about the job she's done," Navarre said. "Replacing Suzanne will be very difficult because she's done such a tremendous job and has so many of the skills that serve her well in this position -- her organization and grant writing skills, her ability to work extremely well with people, and she really cares about the kids and what the Boys and Girls Club does.

"Anyone we get is going to have different skills and is going to be a different fit, but we have a good board and staff, and the club will move forward. We'll miss her, certainly, but we've got a good structure."

Little first came to Alaska in 1981. She went to Barrow for a year and worked as a nanny to earn money to go back to college. On her second day in Barrow she met her husband, Burgener, and married him later that year. Ten days after the wedding, she returned to California to finish her degree in landscape architecture.

She moved back to Barrow after graduation and had a variety of jobs, including working for the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commis-sion and as a planner with the North Slope Borough.

She and her husband moved to Kenai in 1985 where she served on the borough assembly for two years and her husband worked as an art and photography teacher. Little was elected to the state Senate in 1992 and served for two years, where she was instrumental in rewriting the Open Meetings Act.

"Without the ability for the public to have knowledge of what goes on in public matters, so much can be put forward and passed that has no check valve or scrutiny," Little said. "And it's so important for the public to scrutinize proposed public action. I continue to feel very strongly that public information about public matters and the spending public funds is critical to the foundation of our democracy."

Little became Kenai's Boys and Girls Clubs executive director after serving in the Senate.

"Leaving the Kenai club is a very sorrowful thing," she said. "This is the first job where I've ever really felt like I've found what I'm supposed to do, and this work at the Boys and Girls Clubs is so rewarding and so needed in our community. I feel like I'm leaving a child here and it's very difficult."

Leaving may be sorrowful, but Little said the organization is strong and has the support of staff members, board members and every community it operates in. She feels confident it will continue to grow and serve the needs of kids on the peninsula.

Little and Burgener have sold their house and are ready to make their move.

"I'm going to miss skiing out of my back door down the road, driving across Bridge Access Road and looking to both sides and seeing the beautiful mountains, and the Alaska family we've made here who have helped us survive without our blood relatives through lots of winters," Little said.

"It will be a very difficult adjustment, but hopefully we'll make the transition well. I'm just going to miss this place terribly. Everybody has a standing invite to come visit us in Sequim."

HEAD:Boys and Girls Club director steps down

HEAD:Little takes same position in Washington

BYLINE1:By JENNY NEYMAN

BYLINE2:Peninsula Clarion

After six years serving as the executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula, Suzanne Little is giving up her position and her life in Alaska to move with her husband, Mark Burgener, and 5-year-old daughter, Hattie, to Sequim, Wash., where she will be executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula.

Little and Burgener are leaving Kenai in early October to be closer to their fathers, both of whom have Parkinson's disease.

Little was offered the position in Sequim by the regional Boys and Girls Clubs national service director after she began letting people know she was interested in relocating. The program has a smaller budget and serves fewer kids than the Kenai Peninsula program, but the general mission and structure of the organization will be the same.

"I really feel like I've found what I was meant to do," Little said. "I have a degree in landscape architecture and have spent a lot of time in the planning realm. Even though I loved that work and it meant a lot to me, it's nothing like this work at the Boys and Girls Clubs. My heart is happy in this work, so I wanted to remain in the Boys and Girls Clubs realm."

So far, Little has only spent two days in her soon-to-be new home town. She said she can find her way to work but still has a lot to learn.

"I'm looking forward to it," she said. "It's one of those things that has everything in it -- a little bit of fear, a little bit of excitement, a little bit of hope, a little bit of sorrow about missing all the incredible people here. We're going through a very full experience trying to make the transition."

Once settled in her new position, Little plans to continue the same growth trend she helped effect in the Kenai program.

"First I need to figure out what plans the board (in Sequim) has set in place," Little said. "But I would say that, yes, we will be serving more kids there. It's just a matter of figuring out the funding to pay the staff to serve the kids."

During her time with the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula, the organization has quadrupled its budget and number of sites. Six years ago the Kenai club was the only one on the peninsula. Now there are sites in Homer and Seldovia and five after-school programs operating in Soldotna. The number of kids served by the program has risen from 1,000 to 2,500.

"Suzanne joined the club in 1995 and since then our club has basically grown like crazy," said Mike Navarre, president of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula board of directors.

"Through it all, she's done a tremendous job of organizing the staff and the club, recruiting good staff members and giving them the positive direction on a day-to-day basis that has resulted in us being able to serve a tremendous number of kids on the peninsula."

Navarre also credits Little for helping secure both local and national grants to fund and expand their many programs.

"I can't say enough good things about the job she's done," Navarre said. "Replacing Suzanne will be very difficult because she's done such a tremendous job and has so many of the skills that serve her well in this position -- her organization and grant writing skills, her ability to work extremely well with people, and she really cares about the kids and what the Boys and Girls Club does.

"Anyone we get is going to have different skills and is going to be a different fit, but we have a good board and staff, and the club will move forward. We'll miss her, certainly, but we've got a good structure."

Little first came to Alaska in 1981. She went to Barrow for a year and worked as a nanny to earn money to go back to college. On her second day in Barrow she met her husband, Burgener, and married him later that year. Ten days after the wedding, she returned to California to finish her degree in landscape architecture.

She moved back to Barrow after graduation and had a variety of jobs, including working for the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commis-sion and as a planner with the North Slope Borough.

She and her husband moved to Kenai in 1985 where she served on the borough assembly for two years and her husband worked as an art and photography teacher. Little was elected to the state Senate in 1992 and served for two years, where she was instrumental in rewriting the Open Meetings Act.

"Without the ability for the public to have knowledge of what goes on in public matters, so much can be put forward and passed that has no check valve or scrutiny," Little said. "And it's so important for the public to scrutinize proposed public action. I continue to feel very strongly that public information about public matters and the spending public funds is critical to the foundation of our democracy."

Little became Kenai's Boys and Girls Clubs executive director after serving in the Senate.

"Leaving the Kenai club is a very sorrowful thing," she said. "This is the first job where I've ever really felt like I've found what I'm supposed to do, and this work at the Boys and Girls Clubs is so rewarding and so needed in our community. I feel like I'm leaving a child here and it's very difficult."

Leaving may be sorrowful, but Little said the organization is strong and has the support of staff members, board members and every community it operates in. She feels confident it will continue to grow and serve the needs of kids on the peninsula.

Little and Burgener have sold their house and are ready to make their move.

"I'm going to miss skiing out of my back door down the road, driving across Bridge Access Road and looking to both sides and seeing the beautiful mountains, and the Alaska family we've made here who have helped us survive without our blood relatives through lots of winters," Little said.

"It will be a very difficult adjustment, but hopefully we'll make the transition well. I'm just going to miss this place terribly. Everybody has a standing invite to come visit us in Sequim."



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