After serving 18 months as the executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District, Betsy Arbelovsky is going back to what she loves most: working with children.
She will fill the position of executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula vacated in September by past director Suzanne Little.
Arbelovsky will leave her position at the EDD in December and assume her new role in January.
"I've spent my adult life working on behalf of children. It's something I love to do," Arbelovsky said. "I was recruited to come to the EDD and was delighted to come out here and work with the agency. It was very productive and fun to work for, and I can't believe I'm leaving a job I love. But what's most rewarding to me is working with children."
The club advertised for the position nationally, locally and in Anchorage through the Boys and Girls Club organization. The hiring committee received a number of applications, narrowed the field to five prime candidates, interviewed those candidates and ranked them. Arbelovsky was the clear consensus of the hiring team, said Mike Navarre, president of the board of directors of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula.
"She brings a tremendous background from advocacy for youth in the state and outside the state and a tremendous network of connections from all the other positions she's held and jobs she's done," Navarre said. "And she brings a lot of enthusiasm; she's well organized and is going to be a tremendous asset."
Arbelovsky said she grew up in a family that believed in service. She has shown that belief through the numerous positions she's held and programs she's been involved in that benefit children. She has worked as a social worker, was the chair of the March of Dimes, worked with area sports programs and booster clubs, tutored children in math and reading, started a court-appointed special advocacy program and was even, as she put it, the "library story lady."
She also worked as a guardian ad litem, someone appointed by a court to represent the best interests of a minor in a legal issue.
While working for four and a half years in the court system in Wyoming, Arbelovsky wrote over 100 laws that directly impacted the well-being of children and how they are treated in court. She even received an award from the governor of Wyoming recognizing her for her "support and dedicated effort on behalf of victims and victims' rights."
Arbelovsky and her husband, Steve, grew up on the north peninsula and raised their two children here. The children participated in the Boys and Girls Club, and it was a positive experience for them, she said.
Working with the club is an exciting opportunity for her because she loves working with parents and kids in Kenai, she said.
"I think the Kenai Peninsula is a wonderful place to work on behalf of kids because peninsula residents put kids as a priority," she said. "They develop programs specifically for the youth. They give them a positive place to go that allows them to develop into good adults."
The first thing Arbelovsky will do in her new position is get situated and get her feet on the ground. After that she hopes to expand the existing program and add new clubs in places like Seward, Nanwalek and Port Graham.
According to Navarre, Arbelovsky will indeed be working on club expansion, as well as other projects, like following up on grants, managing the growth the club has experienced in the past few years, looking at how to stabilize long-term funding, managing employees and handling fund-raisers.
"I think she'll do a great job," Navarre said. "We have a great staff and I think she'll fit in very well and we'll continue moving forward."
While the Boys and Girls Club gains an executive director, the EDD loses one.
"I told her she couldn't leave," said Soldotna City Manager Tom Boedeker, an EDD board member. "She's done a really good job. We're sorry to see her go, and we wish her well. I tried to talk her into another six months but she wouldn't do it."
Arbelovsky accepted an 18-month contract as executive director of the EDD and said she accomplished what she wanted to accomplish in the position.
"I thought if I came out I could structure (the EDD) in a way that would benefit the peninsula and I've done that," she said.
"The agency went through a lot of transition, and it was fun to help through the transition period. The EDD has a lot of resources that can benefit the peninsula. It's a great program."
During her time as EDD executive director, Arbelovsky got a staff in place that could function efficiently, looked at how to expand capital without spending more money, brought clients into the EDD's Business Incubator and basically did the job that the organization was put together for, said Randy Daly, president of the EDD's board of directors.
"Betsy was a huge asset to the organization," Daly said. "She was a big driver in taking care of business and making sure we were doing the job that we had set out to do."
Daly's plan to deal with Arbelovsky leaving is to chain her to her desk, he joked.
"Failing that, we have some folks who have shown an interest in running the district, and so we're going to look at the folks on staff that have identified themselves as interested in the position first," Daly said.
EDD staff will have the first shot at the position, since Daly said those people have the most hands-on experience. If the board doesn't find someone they feel comfortable with within the EDD, it will open the position to the public.
Daly has a fairly aggressive time schedule at this point and hopes to have the position filled by Jan. 1, he said.
According to Daly, an ideal candidate would have a strong sense of how business works and would be excited and passionate about the job because that's what it takes to be effective and develop businesses on the Kenai Peninsula.
Arbelovsky didn't have a lot of formal business experience, but she said the EDD needed a social worker and that she could do, Daly said.
"She was able to get us functioning again, pull us together, get us excited again. I can just imagine the heat she's going to be able to generate for that organization," he said of Arbelovsky's move to the Boys and Girls Club.
Daly said the EDD is running well and expanding into new projects, including establishing a zero interest business micro loan, continuing its economic forums and completing an economic development report for peninsula communities. He expects the organization to continue functioning smoothly after Arbelovsky moves on.
"Betsy will be missed, but one of the measures of an effective leader is their ability to build an organization that goes on even after they're gone and that's what she did," Daly said.
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