The Sinto Senior Center was packed to the rafters on Dec. 21 when clients, staff and friends roasted Scott Niemeier, who’s leaving after serving as the center’s director since 1990.
“He has been the best director the center has ever had – and I’ve only known the one,” said Rose Aeck, much to everyone’s amusement. “We should all raise our glasses and toast him. We love you and we hate to see you go.”
Niemeier is an employee of the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department, and he is being reassigned within the department.
“Leaving wasn’t by choice, and it’s going to be hard,” said an emotional Niemeier. “This has been my second home for the last almost 23 years. But I’m walking away knowing I’ve done my best.”
Sinto Senior Center’s board of managers and the daily staff will continue to run the center.
Among Niemeier’s many achievements lauded by members and staff was how he worked to maintain and update the building. At one point, a backhoe was called in to help clean out the basement to make room for a meeting room. When he took over, the roof was leaking and a beast of an ancient boiler was coughing away, doing its best to heat the building. Today, all of that has been taken care of.
“You have taken the senior center from just covering basic needs to a place that includes so many fun activities,” wrote Jerry Unruh, executive director of the Hillyard Senior Center, in a letter that was read aloud at the roast. “You have been a compassionate director to your members.”
Sinto Senior Center has gained a good reputation for fun tours, including trips to Mariners games in Seattle and local wineries. Several members mentioned how the center’s croquet league kept them active and connected, though they’d never played croquet before in their lives.
Hal McGlathery, retired Riverfront Park manager, said he worked with Niemeier for many years, calling him an amazing director.
“Believe me, you’ll miss him even more when he’s gone,” McGlathery said.
One by one, members and staffers took the microphone and shared their favorite memories about Scotty, as they called Niemeier.
“I came here for clogging and other types of exercise and I stayed on,” said Dottie O’Rielley, who served on the board for three years. “I just want to tell you thank you.”
Niemeier had a hard time sitting still in his office chair, which was decorated with Christmas lights, glitter and a sign saying “mark my words” while listening to all the kind words.
“We hate to see you go – but you know that’s how it is in life,” said Dan Ackerman.
One member remarked that Niemeier is especially good at picking up ladies. She was referring to a couple of falls she’d taken in the 9 a.m. aerobics class and how Niemeier had been on the spot to help her to get up.
A letter from Debbie Little, director of Renton Senior Activity Center, was also read aloud.
“You were always willing to share your wisdom and experience,” Little wrote. “You are an expert on bulk mail and on how to run a successful bingo program without breaking the state’s gambling rules.” The last comment made everyone laugh.
Niemeier was deeply touched by all the anecdotes and hugged by pretty much everyone in attendance. He said he’s not sure exactly what his new position with the parks department will be. Some joked he may be driving one of those fancy lawnmowers, but for now Niemeier said he will focus most of his attention on the Corbin Arts Center.
Niemeier thanked everyone and said he originally chose to work with seniors because of all the age groups, he found seniors to be the most appreciative.
“I am looking forward to my new adventures, and I promise I will come back and visit,” said Niemeier. “I feel like I have 550 best friends here at Sinto.”