Geri Nienaber, as part of her duties as the Sauk Centre Schools activities secretary, is always focused on activities from the first leaf fall in autumn all the way to summer recreation programs in the blistering heat.

                As a result, it was hard for her to know when it was time to move on.

                But now, as the spring sports season begins, it will be the first slate of activities to go without Nienaber’s guidance in 31 years, as the longtime Sauk Centre faculty member is retiring.

                “I realized that there’s a big world out there and I want to try everything, I want to try anything, I want to try nothing,” she said. “I just decided it was time.”

                The decision comes after a career that originated from a course Nienaber was not originally expecting to take. When she was hired for the position back in the summer of 1990, she had been working at Alexandria Technical and Community College for 11 years, driving from Sauk Centre to Alexandria every day for work. One day, as she listened to school board minutes, she caught wind of an opportunity in her hometown, a way to settle down and take more of  a part in the lives of her three sons, Brian, Jason and Garrett.

                “My children were getting older, starting to be involved in activities,” Nienaber said. “I felt it was time to come back and be back in Sauk Centre and focus my energies on them.”

                Ever since, regardless of the season or who she interacted with on a regular basis, the focused and driven Nienaber found joy in the pure unpredictability of what her occupation would bring. Whether it was expressing herself in creating community education posters or running admission booths at sporting events, there was fortune to be found amidst all the fluctuation. 

                “It was never the same,” Nienaber said. “Each day could bring something different. I was always trying to make something new, a new way to do a form, a new registration. It was always something different.”

                Stepping into this new role surrounded by sports was nothing new for Nienaber, who was a former high school wrestling cheerleader and often joined her husband, Jeff, in watching sports on TV. She understood the ins and outs of activities; the challenge was organizing them with fluidity and timeliness, and oftentimes, securing referees for junior high and C team games and finding volunteers for admission assistance was difficult.

                “You had to be a person that was able to talk with people and meet people,” Nienaber said. “Organization was key. If you send a bus out at a wrong time or a game starts wrong or you don’t have referees, it doesn’t work.”

                Nienaber was also a member of Sauk Centre’s wellness committee and often handled communications with the district’s activity volunteering. But outside of her work alongside faculty and community members, she will remember the impact the town’s student-athletes had on her work.

                “The students I worked with were very polite,” she said. “Very rare did I come across a student that was upset. That was nice.”

                Despite her affinity for her spot within the district, a curiosity to explore other passions began to grow. However, she did not know when she would receive a window of opportunity to retire. This window, coinciding with the end of the winter sports season, was Nienaber’s birthday, March 29, when she handed in her retirement notice before the start of spring activities.

                “There’s never a good time to say, ‘This is it,’” Nienaber said. “My last day at work, I walked out and I said, ‘God, I’m in your hands. You have to tell me what to do.’”

                The idea of retirement, for many, can be challenging as adjusting from one stage of life to another can leave a schedule without much on the to-do list. Nienaber has a plan to counteract potential boredom: stay positively busy with all sorts of engagements like cleaning the house, reading a book, scrapbooking and even learning new recipes. Previously, she would have never had the time to control her pace to this extent, making this new step forward all the more exciting.

                “Waking up in the morning, it will be nice to sleep in a little bit and have a good meal ready for my husband when he gets home,” Nienaber said. “Those simply joys that I had to rush into before, I can take time now.”

                However, just because Nienaber is transitioning to a new life phase does not mean she will disappear from the community she was raised in. The former activities secretary will still be attending Streeter sporting events and the locales that make Sauk Centre hum, only this time, as a spectator and supporter.

                “I still want to be involved doing things here,” she said. “In time, whatever happens, happens.”