I found out last week that Kari Rasmussen was leaving Wausau Area Events, a nonprofit of which I have been both a completely unreasonable critic, as well as a massive supporter, and her departure made me think. I knew Kari socially a lifetime ago, I knew her sister and I used to see her mom every other day at the swimming pool. I am saddened by the departure, but as an old fan of Kari, I am excited to see what is going to happen.
You see Kari is part of my age group, and back in the day she was part of my extended social circle. Like everyone that age we were struggling to find our place in the world. Some of us went this way, or that, but we were all around each other.
Back then there was another Director of the Non Profit, and the organization was much smaller. The boss was the generation older than me, and not cool with people my age who wanted to help. To be fair, I was a nightmare. I know, it is shocking to admit I could have been any worse at any time, but I was arrogant and confrontational and not in a good way. My ideas were just seeds, my methods were unfocused, and my people skills were not at all acceptable. My mentors said that I was rough around the edges, and they were right.
I took out a lot of that on Wausau Area Events (at the time) and their Blues Fest. As you know I worked at a blues club, and had the best network in that area in town. I consistently hated the lineup, and was none too quiet about it. My criticism was simple, book the Fat Possum Crew, Scott Holt, Bill Perry, and Howard Luedtke. Short of that they were never going to make me happy.
But, as I grew my criticism became a little bit more stable. And I worked it out. The director never listened, and that was fine. Eventually I lost interest, and my career path changed. So I stopped paying attention.
We were all still young, and had no idea what we were doing. But a lot of us wanted to find a way to be of service to our community. We wanted to find a way to help. But, no one from our age group broke through. My generation, if you will, was still on the outside looking in.
But then Kari somehow got the job at Wausau Area Events. Then she got promoted and suddenly one of ours was in a position of leadership. This was an amazing thing. This was inspiring.
But, to be fair, I was a complete ass to Kari. I mistook my former friendship for some sort of access, which was not cool. Like before, I was only interested in the Blues Fest.
In time, that all faded and I was just another guy going to events around town. Occasionally writing about them. But, mainly just going like everyone else.
During the time Kari was involved, the organization grew exponentially. What was a sort of hometown good-time group formalized and expanded. You saw new events, you saw new ideas. Wausau grew. Wausau Area Events drove growth.
The balloon thing is a massive event. Seriously, it is great. It is also huge. The amount of volunteers is incredible. This all spins out of the Wausau Area Events office, and under the direct leadership of Kari Rasmussen.
I think that seeing Kari – someone from my age group – assume an active role of leadership in this community, and to have that leadership be effective, has been great. Do not get me wrong, I am still critical of Wausau Area Events as a non profit, and that has not changed.
But, the volunteer pool grew under her leadership, the events grew in both impact and scope under her leadership. She led a powerful nonprofit in a position that faces real challenges both professionally and culturally.
I am proud of the work that Kari has done for the community I live in. This work has made my community better, and as a result it has made my life better. I am proud to be a fan of Kari, and am excited to see what she does next as a regular citizen. I am also hopeful to see the Wausau Events organization grow.
I think that Kari is the bellwether story for my generation and for younger generations. A young woman earning a chance to be a leader in our community. She is an inspiration, and I hope we see her as so.