From maintenance man to director; David Keller retires after 35 years
|David Keller is looking forward to retirement following a career that took him from maintenance man to the top position. Photo by Debra Moore|
The first thing David Keller plans to do in retirement is “take a deep breath.”
Keller, the executive director of the Plumas County Community Development Commission, is stepping away after 35 years with the agency. Though he isn’t going far. The Quincy resident plans to stay in the area and will help archive the past three-plus decades of documents for his successor.
“It’s been a super interesting job, but it’s a pressure cooker,” Keller said of the commission, which evolved from a housing authority to the organization that it is today serving not only Plumas, but Lassen, Sierra and Tehama counties as well.
As the organization evolved, so did Keller’s role.
Back in 1979 he was a Lutheran pastor looking for part-time work. He became the maintenance man for the then three-person housing authority. In some ways, he saw the roles as similar.
“I transitioned from the clergy to the ability to help people have good lives here,” Keller said.
He sees the principle function of the Community Development Commission as providing the necessities of life — a safe home, clean water, heat, etc.
“We provide the basic services so that people can have a good, viable life here,” Keller said. “Our mission is to really find funds.”
The commission is an entity separate from the county, but its board of directors is the Plumas County Board of Supervisors.
“It gets confusing,” Keller admits.
What’s also confusing is the rules and regulations that accompany the state and federal dollars the commission seeks in funding.
Keller sees his job as “how can we make state and federal programs work at our levels — how can we use rules that are nonsensical, but make the programs work in our communities.”
He knows that some people object to pursuing grant funding, but Keller sees it as “bringing tax dollars back into the county.”
And that’s one of the two most satisfying parts of his job. “I can really see the impact on people’s lives,” he said.
While he admits that funding for water and sewer may not be “exciting” it’s extremely important for the life of a community.
Providing affordable housing, the core service of the commission, is also very rewarding, he said.
The commission owns affordable housing units in Quincy, Chester and Greenville and provides assistance for those who reside in other housing options.
“I am proud of providing affordable housing for our communities on a higher per capita basis than elsewhere,” Keller said.
In addition to services, Keller values the access and ease of communication he experiences in doing his work.
“I marvel at the structures my colleagues have to navigate,” he said. “The access to people is really unique. I can talk one on one with no buffers.”
Keller became the director of the commission in 2000, succeeding Martin Zone, who in turn had succeeded John Sheehan, the original commission director.
“I could talk for hours about Keller,” Sheehan said, and then lauded his work. “He’s just done a wonderful job.”
Keller cleaned out his office last week and compared it to a walk down memory lane, as he reviewed materials that documented his more than three decades of work.
Keller’s last official day of work was July 31, and the commission is searching for a new executive director.
“We have gone through the first round of solicitation,” Keller said, but with no success. “The challenge is to find someone who wants to live in a rural area.”
Until a permanent replacement can be found, Tom Yagerhofer, who is the finance officer and deputy director, will step into the role.
Keller’s advice to Yagerhofer is to “really pay attention to our core programs” and “to work on the transition for someone to be the new director.”
Sheehan doesn’t think it’s going to be easy to find a successor. “He has so many skills,” Sheehan said of Keller.
In his retirement, Keller hopes his skills will be limited to spending time with his wife, Colleen, whom he describes as having waited “patiently for his retirement,” traveling and visiting their children.
“There are a lot of activities, projects and interests that have been put on hold,” he said. “Not having the responsibility will be good and freeing.”
Keller was feted during a celebration Aug. 1, and is scheduled to be recognized by the Board of Supervisors during its Aug. 12 meeting.