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MAC's latest new start may be its best

It was just seven weeks ago in this space that we wondered if the Madras Aquatic Center job would be enough to "challenge" newly hired executive director Todd Andres. "Challenge" was code-speak for "would Andres stick around?"

Now, less than two months later, we find the answer was no.

It didn't take much to see that Andres wasn't here for the long haul, that the Madras post was just a between-jobs fill-in for someone used to substantially larger paychecks from a career running a large resort and then an expansive housing/recreation facility. No doubt Andres had a great resumé and likely could have admirably done the job. But there is a reality of being over-qualified, and as noted, under-challenged — and judging by the immediate exit, under-committed.

If the still young, struggling entity that is the MAC needs anything, it's committed, successful leadership — two elements it hasn't been able to package yet.

So, the MAC is turning yet another new leaf, getting a fresh start ... again. Over roughly a year, the MAC has endured the instability of four directors (including an interim), and experienced resignations and public firings and rehirings. But, on the plus side, the MAC last year was given an expanded operating levy from the voters.

New starts, ups and downs, embarrassments offset by positives like approved operating levies and state swimming championships ... that's been the MAC.

Now it's time for the fifth director during this past year or so: Joe McHaney. He may be the MAC's best chance yet at a successful new start.

McHaney's professional career in Madras started in 2008 as a very popular sports editor here at the Pioneer. In 2012, he left to become the executive director of the Kids Club of Jefferson County. In that job, he played a vital role in substantially elevating that organization's attendance and standing in the community.

McHaney is an excellent communicator and listener, very much a people person who has strong public relations/media skills (both social and old school), a sports and recreation background, and he’s enrolled to begin a remote Master in Business Administration program through Eastern Oregon next fall -— not a bad pedigree for a MAC chief.

If he takes to the MAC role as he has his other two jobs in Madras, he will fully dedicate himself, make it his own, and he'll refuse to be anything but successful. Unlike the last hire, McHaney lives in Madras, well knows the community, and, more importantly, is committed to it.

But McHaney has a huge task in front of him: bring the MAC stability, improve its standing in the community with the masses that are not swimmers, and help it reach its goals to of being a communitywide recreation organization.

No doubt McHaney leaving the Kids Club disappoints a lot of kids and their parents, the staff he's formed, and the board of directors of the organization (which, for disclosure purposes, I'm one). But McHaney leaves the Kids Club in its strongest position, really, since the program was established as a Boys and Girls Club back in the late '90s. For instance, before McHaney took the job, the daily attendance at the after-school program was about 135. Now, it's 220.

The Kids Club Board of Directors — which did its best to keep McHaney at the club — is now tasked with finding a strong replacement. McHaney's staying through April, essentially giving six-weeks' notice, will greatly help in that regard.

Largely via contributions McHaney's made to the operation, the Kids Club, so important to this community's kids and families, will continue to survive and thrive, with likely even stronger ties to the MAC.

With the excellent job he's done at the Kids Club, McHaney has earned the backing and support from the community in his quest to bring stability and success to the MAC. The MAC board was wise to give him this shot.

At the risk of jinxing things, I'll pose the same question I did seven weeks ago: Is there enough to challenge the new executive director? Unequivocally, yes. But I'd venture to guess that this one will stay until the job's done.



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