Veilleux retires, hands over the reins to the school district
Morrie Veilleux thought he was looking retirement in the face in 2005 when his wife died and he was left with two of his grandchildren — then, in the midst of controversy, he decided to apply for New Richmond’s district administrator position.
Veilleux started his education career in 1970 when he landed a teaching position in Wrenshall, Minn., his hometown. He taught there for more than nine years before buying his grandmother’s 280-acre farm to raise feeder pigs.
He said he farmed until the early ‘80s when farm prices plummeted and interest rates soared. Not many farms survived the 1980s and Veilleux said he was one of the unlucky.
In 1981 he took a job as editor/publisher of the Moose Lake Star-Gazette, where he worked until 1983, when he decided to go back to school for an education specialist degree at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. It was while he was studying at Superior that he got wind of a high school/middle school principal opening at Spring Valley.
He was hired in Spring Valley in November 1984 and has been working in Wisconsin since, he said.
He accepted a job in Clayton as superintendent in 1991 and worked there until July 3, 2006 when he began as superintendent at New Richmond.
“I came in at a controversial time,” Veilleux said. “I knew what I was getting into.”
Even as superintendant at Clayton, Veilleux lived in New Richmond and kept current with the issues between the school board and the community, and the issues between the school board and various administrators.
“We had the upheaval of the board in August 2006 when three board members resigned,” he said. “I had to assist the board in seeking out new board members. I think we had something like 19 apply.”
It was less than a year later that work began on the $92 million building referendum.
“By January or February (2007) we had the referendum outline ready to go and started working,” he said. “Having that pass in April was a surprise. It was kind of a blur after that.”
Veilleux said he had some building experience while he was in Clayton, but “not $92 million worth.”
In addition to the referendum, Veilleux said he’s also proud to have helped bring New Richmond’s 4K program to the community.
“To have the board realize they could do that and that there was interest to provide that opportunity for kids at that young of an age... it really makes a difference,” he said.
Veilleux said he’s very much looking forward to retirement and the relaxation and opportunity it will bring.
“I’m looking forward to not having to call off school and the snow days,” he said. “I will not miss that one bit. The transition with Jeff (Moberg) will be so much smoother than anything I’ve ever experienced when I started a new job. I think very highly of him, he has good relationships in the community and it bodes very well for continuity and what we and the board have been doing.”
He said his future plans include spending time with his family — including his seven grandchildren — and traveling.
“I think the first year I’ll take it easy,” he said. “As superintendent you’re busy all the time. It’s 24/7 building operations and school stuff. It never leaves you. It’s always on your mind.”
Just because he’s retiring doesn’t mean he’ll fade into the shadows.
“I’m a small town boy who would rather just fade out with anonymity,” he said. “When I was at Clayton, but living in New Richmond, I could go to the store in my gardening clothes and not be noticed. That’s not how it is anymore and I don’t think it’ll ever go back to that way while we’re living in New Richmond.”
Veilleux will continue to serve on the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College’s board of directors and said he plans to continue his commitment working on a solution for the Community Commons.
Veilleux said he has no plans to leave town and is looking forward to seeing two of his grandchildren graduate from high school next year — one from New Richmond High School.
“I really wish I could be on that stage to give him his diploma, but the time is right to retire,” he said. “Plus, I need to treat them all (his seven grandkids) equally. I’ll be in the audience clapping.”