Casas is new senior center chief

By Lenore Rutherford, The Union Democrat April 19, 2013 06:56 am

Mike Ruggles turns over the reins today as chief executive officer of Sierra Senior Providers to Sonora native Leon Casas.

Casas has been training with Ruggles for a month at the Tuolumne County Senior Center, which is operated by the nonprofit corporation.

Casas said Thursday Ruggles has done an excellent job. Casas said he is very excited about building on what has already been done.

Casas was parish administrator for St. Patrick’s Catholic Church until January 2012, when budget constraints led to downsizing and a lay-off of six people.

Since then, he has kept busy volunteering with Meals on Wheels and Interfaith Community Social Services and as the volunteer coordinator for Catholic Charities.

“Volunteering full-time was a real eye opener for me,” he said. “I have lived here all my life and never realized how many homeless and disadvantaged people there were. It was very insightful for me. I have always wanted to make a contribution to the community, and now it seems all of my experience led me here.”

He was also a caregiver for his mother for five years until she died in 2007.

He served as director of the Tuolumne County Recreation Department for 16 years, leaving there to study to be a teacher. However, he eventually realized classroom teaching wasn’t his forte, he said, so he went to work for the Tuolumne County Library, where he started the adult literacy program and served as interim library director and assistant director of library services.

He left in 2004 when he was offered a position at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Sonora, which led to his position as parish administrator.

He and his wife Kathy have six adult children and 13 grandchildren. His hobbies include running, outdoor activities, and trips to Yosemite and the ocean.

“This job is a good fit for me,” he said. “I believe all my experience, both professional, volunteer and personal, has led me here.”

Ruggles, 71, said this is his second retirement. He retired as executive director of Skyline Place Senior Living in Sonora in 2009 after serving there four years and with other assisted living facilities for the 11 years prior to that.

He came out of retirement later the same year after former Tuolumne County Senior Center CEO Randy Hunsaker, of Columbia, drowned in the Calaveras River near Valley Springs. A member of the Senior Center board of directors asked Ruggles to consider applying for the job.

His wife, Barbara, is also retiring from her job at Oak Valley Community Bank. In May, they plan to move to Grass Valley where they have owned a home for many years.

“We have been renting here,” he said, “and had a tenant in our home there. It turned out the tenant there is moving, so it seemed the timing was right to move back to Grass Valley.”

Ruggles said he has been impressed by how caring and giving the people of Tuolumne County are.

“I’ve been blessed to live here,” he said, “and I will leave a different person. The impact of the wonderful people I’ve met here will be with me the rest of my life.”