Longtime Cedar Valley Services head to retire
Published 10:18 am Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Up and over the valley
Jim Mueller’s time is winding down.
There’s a pile of cards lining the shelves of his office, all of which wish him a happy retirement. He’s got a few personal effects, but not many, as he’ll soon clear out of Cedar Valley Services after almost 35 years.
Mueller, the former executive director at Cedar Valley, officially stepped down at the end of last year and is temporarily staying on to help the transition. He’ll soon move on to other adventures, however.
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“I turned 68, and I’d love to do some other things,” he said.
Mueller grew up in Wisconsin and received a master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation in 1973 from the University of Wisconsin – Stout. He was always interested in helping people with disabilities find work and support.
“I thought it was a worthy thing to do and I enjoyed working with the individuals,” he said. “I always felt that they were hardworking and sincere individuals who were interested in making a contribution. They had a lot of pride in the work that they did.”
To that end, he found himself in Austin in 1980, ready to work for Cedar Valley. The organization has created numerous work programs and opportunities for area residents with physical or mental special needs over the years.
Mueller was there to help guide the organization. When he started in the ‘80s, Cedar Valley’s annual budget was about $1,600. Today, Cedar Valley oversees a $14 million budget for work programs, support services and other initiatives.
Yet Mueller believes much of the gratitude for Cedar Valley’s success should go to its on-site directors and ground-level employees who helped design many of the work programs.
“I always thought that Cedar Valley was driven from the bottom up,” he said. “It wasn’t so much one individual responsible for success as it was many people.”
Many people will recognize Mueller because of his volunteer service in the community. Aside from his role on the Hormel Foundation board, Mueller also worked with the United Way for a number of years, as well as the Austin Area Chamber of Commerce. He’s still a member of the Early Risers Kiwanis and currently serves on the Riverland Foundation board as well.
Mueller and his wife plan to spend a few months in Florida each year to see their daughter’s family, but the Muellers also expect to stay in the Midwest to visit their other children.
After all, they don’t want to leave the place they helped over the years.
“Austin’s a good place to live,” he said.