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New Youth Service Bureau leader takes helm

A woman with deep roots in nonprofit organizations recently took the helm at a Washington County youth agency after her longtime predecessor retired.

Afton resident and former St. Paul-based Face to Face program CEO Mary Planten-Krell was named executive director Jan. 2 at the Youth Service Bureau. The program's service centers include locations in Woodbury, Cottage Grove and Stillwater.

She takes over the program headed for 32 years by former executive director Paul Weiler.

"While it is always difficult to replace a founding director, we are very fortunate to find Mary," said YSB Chairwoman Paula Hemer. "She immediately connected with our strategic plans and our values, while bringing an array of skills to help us move forward."

Planten-Krell called Weiler a respected colleague in the field of youth services.

"He left an organization that's very well respected with deep roots in all those communities - and he's kept it fiscally sound," she said.

The agency serves youth on three main levels, Planten-Krell said. Those levels include diversion from the courts system, counseling, and school-based programs.

She said the agency diverts youth who have just entered the criminal justice system and seek ways for them to repay society without entering the system.

The YSB helps connect those youth with community service projects for organizations and businesses around the county and in western Wisconsin.

Planten-Krell said the YSB services 1,600 to 2,000 youths each year.

The organization also offers counseling programs tailored for young people, she said.

We have a special interest in youth," Planten-Krell said. "It's a different world than our adult world."

She said counseling needs include a particular demand in Woodbury, where she said "the need has been growing."

The organization's school-based programs include placing staff members at schools including Woodbury's two high schools and Park High School.

Planten-Krell said the aim of school-based programming is to identify problems early, like in Woodbury, where she said female students have been increasingly stepping forward for counseling; and in Cottage Grove, where student suspensions are being handled with emotional counseling.

Planten-Krell said her passion for working with youth drew her to the executive director position. That, she said, and the agency's focus on early intervention.

"Before you have 21-year-olds who are damaged beyond repair," Planten-Krell said.

She said her focus will be putting the agency's strategic plan into action, which includes expanding the program into western Wisconsin - where she said a "gigantic need" is present - and increasing individual donations.

"We've been in many ways a well-kept secret," Planten-Krell said. "My role is really making the connections that can lead to the sustainability of the program."

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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