Though she was happy where she was, Suzy Kocher was looking for something a little different, something that was offered to her as director of Culavin Heights.

Kocher began work life as a dental assistant, later moving into the healthcare field. She worked for years processing claims, as a financial counselor, and at the registration desk for CHI Health in Missouri Valley.

“CHI does a good job, but I just needed a change,” Kocher said. “I can interact with the residents here, and they have so many stories to tell. I get to talk (with them) a lot.”

When she heard that longtime director Diane Bertelsen was resigning, she applied for the job, but she said she didn’t really expect a call.

She got the call and the job and began training with Bertelsen the first week of June.

After 13 years at the helm, Bertelsen passed the Culavin Heights Director reins over to Kocher.

Bertelsen retired to spend more time with her husband and family, including her mom in Missouri and children and grandkids in Colorado.

“I don’t know what retirement looks like yet,” she said. “I told (the board) that I wasn’t retiring. I was resigning because I am not tired yet.”

Culavin Heights, which was constructed in 1972, has undergone a multitude of changes under Bertelsen’s watchful eye and often with her help.

There have been security upgrades; new roof, lighting, and ceiling; bathrooms and kitchens; and new landscaping has been done as well as the most recent parking and sidewalk cement work in front of the building. Three of the units became American with Disabilities Act compliant under Bertelsen’s direction.

“This building is almost 50 years old. That was way before ADA,” she said. “All of our showers were a mess, and we remodeled all the bathrooms over about five years. I’ve gone out and mowed the lawn and fluffed rocks.”

Bertelsen said that she has enjoyed working with several great maintenance guys, a terrific board of commissioners, and she has enjoyed the residents she has connected with over the years.

“We have always been a team here. They have been wonderful,” Bertelsen said. “Marge Stirtz is chairman, and she has been with us since groundbreaking. She doesn’t get enough credit.”

Training was complete on June 14, but Kocher knows that she can still call on Bertelsen if necessary.

In many cases, the retirement of one individual, coupled with the hiring of a new one, is not a monumental task, but this position is a bit different.

Culavin Heights is a seven-story, public housing high rise with 53 independent living units. Preference is given to elderly residents and those who are handicapped disabled.

The director is tasked with overseeing daily operations, move-ins, move-outs, and maintenance, as well as the small staff on hand. That person answers to a board of commissioners, as well as the residents, and manages every aspect of the facility.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Kocher said. “I have huge shoes to fill.”

Kocher said that the staff has helped with her transition into the position, and Bertelsen plans to connect her with directors from across the state as well.

The Culavin Heights community enjoys get-togethers and activities, like the puzzle table in the lobby, the lending library, as well as activities in the recreation room, such as movie nights.

Residents do their own thing, too, with residents on one floor getting together for a coffee club in the mornings and a group of ladies that have formed a sewing club in the recreation room.

Often the residents can be found outdoors enjoying their landscaped patios on the ground level or outside the laundry facility as well.

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