As Pequot Lakes Activities Director Marc Helmrichs prepares for retirement, Byron Westrich prepares to take his place.
The Upsala native has spent the past eight years serving as an activities director - first in Upsala for two years before serving the Kimball School District for the past six. His experience with high school activities does not stop there though.
“I have also coached a lot of sports,” Westrich said. “In basketball, I've actually coached 31 years. I coached junior high football for 18 years, baseball for 10 and track for seven. I feel like I have a well-rounded background. I've been in education for 29 years.”
Westrich also taught physical education for more than two decades and served as an assistant basketball coach at St. John’s University.
A new role he will take on in Pequot Lakes is that of high school assistant principal. Already serving two roles for the district, Westrich admits coaching will have to take a back seat.
“I think I can do a much better job as AD and assistant principal if I were not coaching and was available for both coaches and teachers after school. I think that would be in our best interest," he said.
As Westrich prepares to begin his new job July 1, he takes over for Helmrichs after 14 years with the school district, accounting for nearly half of his career as an activities director. Because of this, Westrich feels as though he should be able to get right to work on his first day in a system that is working well.
“I just want to kind of try to settle,” Westrich said. “I know that things are going extremely well. Marc Helmrichs has big shoes to fill. There's a reason he was the state AD of the year. He's very good at his job and I just want to do the best job I can to fill his shoes and get the lay of the land."
During the interview process, Westrich said he had the opportunity to meet with many interesting people in the district - from coaches to board members to PAC members - and looks forward to getting to know them better.
“It's very exciting to see the personalities and the success of the people that are in those roles - everything from speech to football - so that has me really excited,” he said.
He moves to the district with his wife, Trudy - the two have been married for 30 years - and his youngest of six children, who will attend Pequot Lakes High School.
Once Westrich is settled in, he is simply looking forward to spending more time among his fellow staff members, getting to know them and their methods better.
“There are some very good, quality people that work in that district,” he said. “They're just a lot of fun and they have fun personalities. They seem very driven, and I think I fit right in there.”
While he is impressed with the number of activities the district offers, one he would add - perhaps through a co-op - is swimming.
"I have no idea if Brainerd would be interested in that or somebody else, but that's the only one I can think of,” Westrich said. “(Pequot Lakes) has a great number of activities and it sounds like they always have plenty of students to fill those activities.”
More than anything else, though, he is simply ready to settle into his new role and prepare for a new - and hopefully normal - school year.
“I think my family and I were really excited to move there,” he said. “That's probably our most stressful aspect - selling our house, purchasing another - but we will get through that. We'll be fine, and we look forward to moving up there.”
Dan Determan may be reached at 218-855-5879 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Dan.