Wherever she goes, it seems, Kim Swisher makes a difference. She made her mark in the community during her time as the executive director of the Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce and more recently as the community education coordinator for the School District of Rhinelander. Kim will soon be moving on, taking on a new role with the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa as their communications coordinator.
“The Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa has a strong desire to communicate with members, descendants, the surrounding communities and the state,” Kim said. “That is exciting to me, and I hope my skills and experience will serve the tribe well.”
That seems likely, as Kim has proven she has what it takes to build relationships with the community. Her tenure at the chamber is a case in point. Hired for the job in 2009, she soon realized she was faced with more than a matter of increasing chamber membership. The chamber suffered at that time from a tarnished image and was not financially stable. What was more, some people viewed Kim as an outsider because she had previously served as a tourism manager in Sheboygan. But Kim has a talent for working through challenges, and by the time she left the chamber in February 2011 to take a job with the School District of Rhinelander, the chamber was on the road to recovery and Kim had earned the trust and respect of chamber members and the community.
As the school district’s community education coordinator, Kim worked to strengthen relations between the school district and the community, and to bring more educational opportunities and activities to residents.
“When I began my position, the goals of the Community Education Program were clearly defined,” she noted. The aim of the program was to offer educational programs for, and to create a trusting relationship with, the community and to communicate on a regular basis with organizations, businesses and citizens. “I believe we’ve stayed true to our goals,” she added. “We have offered a variety of classes and have been consistent in our communications with our families and the community. The open houses, informational meetings and other community events we’ve hosted have provided excellent opportunities for community input, and I regularly receive emails and calls from residents. I feel our lines of communication have greatly improved, and I know that our incoming superintendent is committed to maintaining strong communication with our families, our staff and our community.”
Incoming School District of Rhinelander Superintendent Kelli Jacobi praised Kim’s work, saying, “She has done a phenomenal job with improving internal and external communication in the district, informing all the stakeholders of what’s going on in the district and what’s going on in and out of the classrooms. She started the community education program that has continually gotten stronger.”
The job with the school district also came with its share of challenges. For Kim, her position as community education coordinator was an education in itself. “I had no idea what went into running a school district,” she recalled. “I worked closely with the school principals, teachers and staff, and had no idea the issues they deal with on a daily basis.” She credited Roger Erdahl, Kelli Jacobi, Dave Wall and Marta Kwiatkowski with taking the time to educate her about issues so that she could accurately present them to the public. “I admire all of my co-workers’ commitment to their jobs and to our kids, and am thankful for everyone’s patience as I learned more than I ever anticipated.”
Funding education is a challenge commonly faced by school districts. Asking taxpayers for more money is a contentious issue, and the school referendum in Rhinelander last fall was no exception. Jacobi praised Kim’s role in communicating with the public about the referendum, noting that she was a contact with whom people felt comfortable.
“The lines of communication have been so open and so positive,” Jacobi added. “It’s very important to keep that going, but it will be difficult. She was the right person for the job.”
In her new role as the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa director of communications, Kim will continue learning and building relationships.
“I look forward to learning more about the Ojibwe culture, tribal operations and the various tribal departments,” she said. “I am also excited to learn about the tribe’s business ventures and the many programs that are currently offered.”
She will begin her new job Monday, June 17. But Kim will temporarily be dividing her time between her new job and her current one. The school district intends to hire another community education coordinator, and Kim will be on hand until June 28 to help with the transition. “I am fortunate that the tribal council understood that I need to assist in the transition,” she said. “Likewise, the school district understands that the tribe is eager to move forward and is being very flexible.” She is grateful, she added, for the understanding on the part of both organizations. She is also grateful for the opportunity she had to serve students, their families and other community members in the School District of Rhinelander.
Now Kim Swisher is looking forward to a new endeavor, and it seems likely that as she has done in her positions with the chamber of commerce and the school district, she will make her mark in Lac du Flambeau as well.