By Tim Leeds
After almost five years of helping a Havre community action agency grow and thrive, Tom Bolan is moving on to head another agency in Nevada.
Bolan, who took over as executive director of Human Resources Development Council District IV on Feb. 4, 1998, will move to Reno over the Thanksgiving holiday to begin as chief executive officer of Take 2, an organization that provides drug and alcohol treatment in a family setting, he said Wednesday.
"It was a really hard decision to make," Bolan said. "This is the best job I've ever had."
Part of why it will be so hard to leave is it means leaving the staff of HRDC. The staff is very competent, hard-working and fun to work with, he said.
"In that sense it made leaving extremely difficult," he said.
Members of the staff said the same about him.
"He's really found a place in a lot of people's hearts," said Lori Evans, HRDC director for both Child Care Link and Family Partnership. "I'm sorry for us but I'm happy for him."
Frank Witter, Head Start director at HRDC, said it won't be just the staff and clients of the organization who will miss Bolan. He has been very active in the community and participated on boards of many groups, Witter said.
Debbie Vandeberg, executive director of the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce, said Bolan's smile and friendship will be missed, as well as his work at HRDC and with the Chamber and other groups.
"From his HRDC role as director out there, I feel that Tom has made a tremendous as well as positive impact on the role that HRDC plays in the community," Vandeberg said. "Chamber-wise, I think he's been a great team player and his guidance as co-chair of the Business Development Committee of the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce will be missed, as well as his wit."
HRDC will begin a nationwide search for a new director. Diane Savasten, HRDC housing director, will serve as acting director of the organization until the position is filled. Savasten was acting director during the previous search that ended with his hiring, Bolan added.
Bolan was instrumental in making many positive changes in HRDC during his tenure, Witter said. One of those was moving the HRDC offices from College Park Plaza to the Lutheran Home of the Good Shepherd building at the south edge of Havre.
Bolan's management style, as well as his high level of energy, helped HRDC make improvements, Evans said.
"He doesn't create limitations, so he creates an environment to dream about things. And he gives resources to realize those dreams," she said.
Bolan said many factors contributed to his decision to accept the job at Take 2, including being closer to his family and better compensation.
"But it isn't about the money," he added.
One reason is that Take 2 is a younger, developing organization, a challenge Bolan likes. Take 2 is proceeding with a capital campaign and trying to find steady funding for some new housing projects. It is also trying to create or increase partnerships with other groups and organizations in Reno, he said.
Bolan is leaving an organization that is thriving, he said.
HRDC will continue to thrive despite the state's recent budget cuts, Bolan said. HRDC provides so many programs that while some may lose state funding, others will continue to be strong, he said.
A special session of the Legislature in August made cuts and budget adjustments to overcome a $56 million deficit. The Legislature faces a deficit estimated at between $200 and $300 million next year and expects to take up further cuts in social services.
It is the people helped by HRDC people on the margins who will be hurt disproportionately by state budget cuts, he said. Cuts to the state Department of Health and Human Services are counterproductive, swelling the welfare rolls as people seek help getting child care, medical care and other needs that the department previously provided, Bolan said.
The state needs to evaluate what the desired safety net is, what programs are required to provide that net and find sources of money to keep the safety net at that level, he said.
Bolan cited many improvements in HRDC's programs and operations since he came to the organization. One of those has been strengthening partnerships in the community, with organizations like Bear Paw Development Corp. and the Havre Public Schools.
The Hi-Line has many excellent groups and organizations to help people, which makes HRDC's job easier, Bolan said. Those groups really make a difference in people's lives, he added.
"One of the great things about this community is people care about each other," he said. "You find out how much when you tell people you're leaving."
Some other successes Bolan lists include being awarded an early Head Start program, which will create 15 jobs and begin serving 60 infants and toddlers on Dec. 1. Others are working with the school district to help preschool students with special needs in cooperation with Head Start, transferring Family Planning from HRDC to the county Health Department, starting a youth mentoring program, creating a transitional housing program, founding the Hill County Family Support Coalition, taking over the administration of the North Havre Community Food Bank, and opening new Head Start buildings in both Havre and Chinook.