On July 1 the NOWCC family wished a fond retirement farewell to a wonderful friend and respected colleague, Mr. Al Ressler – Butch to his childhood friends in North Dakota. In a recent conversation about his tenure with NOWCC, Al stated that he joined the NOWCC Board of Directors 12 years ago because he had seen the future and wanted to help make a difference. More specifically, Al had witnessed first-hand the early signs of the ‘silver tsunami’ during his rise through key Human Resource positions across several federal agencies, and he believed (and still believes) passionately in the compounding value that experienced workers can bring to any work environment. During his seven years on the Board, the last two as Secretary/Treasurer, Al played a key role in mapping our future through strategic guidance that was tempered with a seasoned and practical perspective, always delivered with humor and a strong personal commitment toward achieving NOWCC’s Mission.
Things get done. He is action oriented while staying thoughtful and doesn’t panic under pressure. You can’t get more professional than Al.
Joe Stearns, NOWCC Board of Directors
Five years ago Al opted to defer his permanent retirement (he had already retired at least once from federal service) and joined the NOWCC staff as Senior Director for our Field Operations. Al believed that he could add perspective and value to our efforts – and the intervening years have proven he was correct, though his projected contributions were understated, as always. NOWCC is a better organization, and a better place to work, because of Al.
A few episodes from his personal history illuminate some of the essential building blocks of a treasured friend and prized teammate and leader. At age 13 Al was working Saturdays at a dry cleaning plant, cleaning floors and washing rags from gas stations, establishing the foundation of a strong work ethic and a life-long interest in cars. When asked his fondest memory (from his working life), Al immediately mentioned the challenges his team faced when one of the military bases where he was working was scheduled to close as part of the national ‘base realignment’ or BRAC program. Several hundred people were confronted with the loss of employment; Al’s team committed to finding a job for anyone who wanted one, and they were 100% successful, a remarkable accomplishment given the economic conditions at the time.
Al is the consummate professional whose contributions to NOWCC have been, in the words of Master Card … “Priceless”. His departure will leave a large hole in NOWCC that I am sure cannot be filled a single hire. He is the best!
Frank Hurd, Vice Chair, NOWCC Board of Directors
In reflecting upon the evolution of the Human Resources field, Al noted one of the biggest changes over his career is in the application and utilization of technology for what had been a profession originally based on human connection. Back in the ‘good ol’ days’, HR was a hands-on, one-on-one service; now the primary means of connecting in HR is in ‘touching’ a keyboard.
Perhaps it is more efficient, particularly with the current emphasis on data and reporting, but the human element might have been diminished. And when asked – ‘what has remained the same’ in HR, Al’s response – staying focused on the mission and finding quality people — reminds us of his personal and professional mantra: Mission First … People Always.
It is difficult in a short space to mention the many ways in which Al has impacted NOWCC, from being the face of the organization in working with EPA and the Senior Environmental Employment Program, to a trusted coach and advisor to every member of the staff, from being a seasoned guide through the multi-dimensional landscape that is Human Resources, to providing insights into the policies, practices and perspectives of federal agencies NOWCC would serve. Al touched and influenced us across the board, and always for the better.
Al is, by far, the best manager of my career: an out-of-the box thinker and great problem solver with a generous heart and a twinkle in his eye.
Laura Melton, NOWCC colleague
The emphasis on the people dimension of our work, his humor, and his ability to build and lead a strong, dynamic team will be part of his significant legacy at NOWCC. Al leaves behind a staff, in our Field operations as well as across the whole organization that is committed – like the man himself, to professionalism with the human touch.
We are better off, as individuals and as an organization, for Al having been part of our lives these past 12 years. The whole NOWCC family extends our heart-felt wishes for happiness and the continued joy of discovery as Al and Gail embark on their next chapters together. There are roads to drive down, golf courses to play, and new friends to make. And we look forward to what we hope will be regular visits back with some of his biggest fans and supporters — here at NOWCC.
First as a member of the Board, and then as a staff member, the knowledge and experience that Al brought have been invaluable to all of us at NOWCC. His keen insights, coupled with his calm and steady perspective made him a valued colleague for many of us. I believe it was Al who started the “sock wars”, leaving yet another indelible mark on the NOWCC culture.
Cindy Langley, Chair, NOWCC Board of Directors
A final question. How do you say farewell to a touchstone, to a vital rhythm that energizes an organization, to a friend? With joy over shared memories, with happiness for his coming adventures, and with eagerness for the next opportunity to connect.