The New Richmond Heritage Center has found its new executive director and they couldn't be happier with the choice.
"Stephanie (Cooke) is a great fit for the Heritage Center," said Paul Mayer, president of the Heritage Center Board of Directors. "A long-time resident of New Richmond with many years' experience at the Chamber of Commerce, Stephanie will be a critical link between the Heritage Board, our volunteers and our community."
Cooke, who was officially named executive director June 14, was previously employed by the New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, where she served on numerous committees and was involved in many aspects of the operation, including event planning, marketing coordination, volunteer programming and office management.
"The board of directors contacted me when they found out I was no longer with the chamber and asked if I could help them out in the office," Cooke said. "So I was helping them out here, doing some computer work for them, and then I decided to submit my resume for the position in the spring. They narrowed the search down to two people and then I did a final interview before they offered me the position."
Although she had been helping out at the Heritage Center on a more extensive basis since December 2016, Cooke said she has been helping the organization with computer work, while also entering items into their database, for quite a while longer.
"I wanted to help them out since I have always loved the Heritage Center and I have known Irv and Mary for a while. The Heritage Center is just an awesome part of New Richmond," Cooke said. "I decided to apply for the position because, at that point, I had stopped job searching and I just decided I enjoyed being here and thought I might as well throw my hat in the ring to see if I had the qualifications that were needed. The job is a lot of learning as you go because there is a lot more to the Heritage Center than a lot of people realize."
The Heritage Center's mission is to help build a connection with the past through exhibits, tours, programs and events.
"As I was closing up the other day, a couple from Menomonie stopped in because a friend of theirs had told them about the complex and they wanted to see it," Cooke said. "I gave them a tour and I was here for another hour and a half. They were so excited about the tour and what they saw that they were going to go back to Menomonie and tell other people. They said it was the best one they had ever been to."
Cooke's duties as executive director include overseeing everything that goes on at the Heritage Center, including the volunteers, serving on all the committees as well as anything else you can think of, Cooke said.
"I feel really good about the position. It is very educational, I'll tell you that," Cooke said. "Working with the volunteers and the board is amazing, as well as Irv and Mary. If it wasn't for those people, who are all volunteers, this place wouldn't exist."
In addition to adding Cooke as executive director, the Heritage Center has also made a few changes to its tour scheduling.
"The program committee started a new program to make sure that there is a volunteer either on-sight or on-call for people that want to take a tour of the buildings," Cooke said. "There was always someone at the flea market that could do a tour, but now we have someone specifically in place to give tours so those people don't have to be taken away from the flea market."
To request a tour guide, visitors need to head to the flea market and ask staff to call the on-call tour guide to come in and give the tour.
The Heritage Center flea market is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, as well as 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and noon to 3 p.m. Sunday.
"We are trying to get the word out, especially for people who live in New Richmond who don't know it is here. No matter how many times you tour this place, you are still going to see things you didn't notice before every time you come out," Cooke said. "And there are always new things being donated and added to the collection. I've been out in these buildings giving tours and people point things out that I didn't notice before."