Executive Director Dan Wenner Retires After 32 Years
Friday, June 14, 2019
Dan Wenner has spent more than three decades working for the Rural Minnesota Concentrated Employment Program (RMCEP). But before that, the retiring executive director was a client.
Wenner turned to RMCEP when he needed some assistance to find work. This experience of getting help when he really needed it — and the way services were delivered — made an impression on him.
“I gained a high regard for the organization because of the way staff treated people — with respect,” Wenner says. When a job opportunity later opened up at RMCEP, he decided to pursue it.
Wenner started his 32-year career at RMCEP as a planning specialist, working to ensure the organization met necessary goals. He helped develop plans for allocated funding, wrote grant applications and responded to requests for proposals. He also wrote press releases, offered testimony at the state legislature and helped write policy.
For 14 years, Wenner has served as RMCEP’s executive director. Some of his proudest moments leading the organization happened during one of the most difficult periods in recent time for the country.
“We did a really good job helping people get training during the Great Recession,” says Wenner, noting that the agency received extra funding from the state and federal government to upgrade people’s training, especially for in demand occupations.
“Our resource rooms were really busy. We put on additional staff to help. We not only helped people train and find work, we helped them navigate the process of applying for unemployment insurance.”
While working as a planner, Wenner helped develop the process for determining occupations in demand with data that drills down to a six or seven county regional level. Prior to that, the data available lumped all 28 counties in northwest Minnesota together. This has a considerable long term impact on the decisions being made regarding careers to train for at a more local level.
Wenner takes pride in the fact that some new RMCEP programs were initiated under his tenure, such as the career advising program that helps high school students select a career path. RMCEP has also done significant work to expand services to individuals with disabilities in recent years.
“My firm belief is that in order for people to be successful, they need to work at some point in lives,” says Wenner. “What we do actually helps ensure people will have successful lives. That’s intrinsic to our work.
Though RMCEP works a lot with individuals, a larger vision guides its work. “Employers need skilled workers to be successful,” Wenner says. “By working with people to develop the skills they need, we’re not just helping the individual, we’re contributing to the local, regional and state economy.
Through the years, RMCEP’s commitment to delivering quality services has been a focus. “We have a lot of respect for the people we work with, both employees and clients/customers,” says Wenner, noting that the organization strives for continuous improvement, always looking for ways to add or improve services.
When asked about his retirement plans, Wenner jokes, “I have 5 years of chores at home to catch up on. Yard work will be my life for the next three months.”
Wenner is looking forward to retirement but intends to stay involved in public service. He currently serves on the Detroit Lakes City Council.
Wenner’s official retirement date was June 13. He has great confidence in his successor, Vicki Leaderbrand, who has been with RMCEP for 14 years, first as a planning specialist and then as director of operations and human resources. “I feel like I’m leaving the organization in good hands and on a good note,” says Wenner. “The agency is in great shape.”