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Bowles settles in as new HACC director





It took no time at all for the staff and youngsters at Hays Area Children's Center to get to know the new executive director's name.

Susan Bowles, who replaced Doug Greer, has worked at HACC for 25 years as a speech-language pathologist.

"I loved my job, but I'm going to love this also," Bowles said. "I felt I had experience in education and working with young children. I get along well with other people, my co-workers.

"I had a skill I could share with them, to help them provide the quality services that we want our young children to receive."

She does plan to maintain her speech-language pathologist certification, even though she won't be practicing.

The executive director's job has come full circle since Bowles was the one who encouraged Greer to apply for the job in 1996 when Theda Webster retired.

"I knew Doug when he was at Wellington," Bowles said. "We both belonged to Kansas Division for Early Childhood, an organization for professionals who work in early intervention."

When Greer couldn't take the job for a couple months, Bowles served as interim director.

"I think that's probably what got me interested in pursuing my education in the area of administration," Bowles said.

She earned building and district level degrees and a director of special education degree.

Bowles grew up in Colby and started her career as a middle and high school vocal music teacher. She moved to Hays in 1986 and went back to school to earn her master's degree in speech-language pathology.

She supervises a staff of approximately 50, who work as a team with children ages birth to 3 years.

"We help families work with children, so they can be their teachers and primary caregivers and develop skills naturally," Bowles said.

The center also has screenings for children birth to school age that are open to anyone.

"We want to provide well-rounded services that are going to meet the families' needs," she said.

Approximately 100 children are screened a year, and a total of 150 children are served in early intervention.

"Susan's experience, background knowledge and leadership have contributed to her successful transition as our new HACC executive director," said Kelly O'Brien Koerner, HACC community relations coordinator. "Susan will continue the HACC legacy begun in 1966 as a dedicated advocate for children and families."

Bowles doesn't plan to make any changes initially, but make changes as needed.

"My predecessor was running things quite well. I'm following in his footsteps," she said.

She and her husband, Dwight, have two children, Brett, a seventh-grader at Hays Middle School, and Beth, a second-grader at Roosevelt Elementary School.