Dave Miller resigned as the unit director at Sequim’s Carrol C. Kendall Unit of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula on Jan. 28, ending a six-and-a-half-year tenure that saw the former bus driver and paraeducator become a loved figure to many club youths.
Long-time club program director Tessa Jackson was named as interim unit director.
Speaking the day after Miller announced his resignation, Mary Budke, executive director for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula, said she wishes Miller the best for his future.
“I love Dave as a person first and as a unit director second,” Budke said, “so I’m happy that he’s going to be reconnecting with his family life and then deciding what his next steps in life are.”
Miller did not respond to a request for comments after his resignation. In the Facebook post he used to publicly announce his resignation, he expressed his thankfulness to Budke, his staff and the children and families of the club for trusting him in his role and making the years enjoyable.
Miller, who began with the club as a bus driver, was one of Budke’s first choices as unit director when there was an opening.
“He was magical with the kids,” Budke said. “I knew he would be great in that role.”
Getting Miller to become the unit director was another issue entirely, however.
“It took convincing to get him to apply,” Budke said. “But I’m so glad he did. When he finally interviewed with the panel, he absolutely won it, and he breathed new life into the club.
“He has been an agent of change here. He’s been the best unit director that we’ve had here, and his longevity speaks to that. He was better than I was.”
Miller took a pair of existing programs used at club — the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and Positive Action — and expanded them to the benefit of the club as a whole.
CACFP is a major source of funding for the club and helps assure that every student who comes into the club each day has something to eat if they want it, while Positive Action teaches students to learn how to think and behave with more care and forethought.
Along with that expansion came a massive overhaul of the club’s other activity programming, with Miller and Jackson working to try and enhance the experience that children have at the club each day.
Flurry of activity
Miller also kept on driving the club’s big blue school bus, becoming the club’s primary driver on field trips and other outings.
“He just loves driving Big Blue,” Budke said with a laugh.
Each trip was designed to be fun but always had an educational element to it as well, even if the youths on the trip didn’t realize it right away.
A close relationship with the Seattle Storm allowed the club’s kids regular access to games and even special meet and greets with players, even including a special net-cutting during the WNBA playoffs two years ago.
Youths from the club were invited to sell programs at Seattle Seahawks games to support charities several times.
An annual series of field trips each summer was centered around Junior Rangers, a program Miller helped establish at the Sequim clubhouse. Junior Rangers connects with state and national park staff across the Olympic Peninsula to take groups from Boys & Girls clubs into parks to let them see, experience and learn about nature.
“Junior Rangers became an incredible program here, and that’s all because of Dave’s passion,” Budke said.
Miller took club youths on a surprise mystery field trip to Port Angeles on what wound up being his last day at the club.
Jackson said taking over for Miller after working with him for so long was a difficult moment, but one she said she’s ready for.
“(It’s) bittersweet,” Jackson said. “I have worked for Dave for six-and-a-half years and I will miss his permanent presence in the club, but I am excited to carry on his vision.
“He wasn’t only my boss, he was my mentor and role model, and I learned so much under his guidance. He encouraged me to step so far outside of my comfort zone over the years and I grew tremendously and gained so much from those opportunities. He taught me to never be afraid to try new things. That if it doesn’t work you can always go back but you’ll never know until you try.”
Jackson also said that she’ll always fondly remember how readily Miller would participate in club activities like talent shows or the annual Daddy-Daughter Dance.
According to Budke, applications for the permanent unit director position opened on Feb. 10, with interviews by panel to be scheduled later on.
“We’ll take the time that this needs and deserves,” Budke said of the process. “We don’t want to rush this.”
The interview panel will give input and opinions to Budke following interviews, but the final choice on who replaces Miller will be made by Budke, she said.