Bittersweet good-bye


Tuesday was Peter Polga’s last official day as Courage Center St. Croix director. He retires after serving as the first director at the Stillwater facility.

“It’s bittersweet,” Polga said “It’s hard to believe that I’ve been working anywhere for this long. I heard something yesterday that said, ‘The more you love what you do, it brings you joy each day to have the fortunate opportunity for the great career’.”

Polga’s 38-year career was something that taught him life is short, people are good and not to take anything for granted.

“I’ll miss the people and staff, they are first rate. This profession attracts people who are compassionate and I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some of the best people,” he said. “Our clients have given me inspiration each day. They manage whatever cards have been dealt and the community has really supported us. We have a lot of contacts and I’ll miss working with them on a daily basis.”

Polga said while most people associate him with the Courage Center, the program will continue in the very capable hands of his employees. Although the organization as a whole is going through some changes, in the interim Joanie Kiminski and Patty Radoc will take over programming while current CEO Jan Malcolm manages the center.

Polga’s advice for those that will follow in his footsteps: “Expect changes, nothing ever stays the same. Be calm and patient and know that it’s best to move through those changes by listening rather than talking.”

He said programs will continue at the same quality level that clients have expected for the last 25 years. Polga will continue to work on some projects through the end of the month.

“One of the things I’ve learned — almost every day — is life is uncertain. Any of us can end up having a disability and our life can change with no fault of our own. I’ve learned to appreciate what I have and not to take things for granted,” he said.
Going forward Polga, an avid outdoorsman, plans to do more outdoor activities. He also hopes to spend more time with his grandchildren and family.

“Our son is getting married in July so that will keep us busy for awhile,” he said. “My wife is also retiring in June, so we’ll both be able to travel and do all the things we’ve put off.”

Polga also hopes to continue being active by serving others.

“In the long term I hope to have more community involvement, to serve others, work on programs and make a difference for people in our society,” he said. “I won’t be too far away from here but I hope to help the broader community.”