After working at Head Start for 30 years, with over 20 serving as the director, Julie Lang will retire at the end of December.
Lang said Nov. 1 marked 30 years exactly since she started at Head Start, initially as an assistant teacher.
“I was recently divorced so I needed a full time job with benefits. This job came open as an assistant teacher in a classroom and I started that job. Other positions came open, and then in 2001, a director position came open. I’ve been doing the director position since 2001.”
Throughout her time at Head Start, Lang has had plenty of great memories, but her favorites includes a two-week management program at UCLA and time spent with fellow directors.
“All of the camaraderie… I have so many director friends around the state. I’m the one that’s been the longest now, and I remember it feels like yesterday that I was one of the new people,” Lang said. “It’s such a good group of people to work with. You’ve got a question, you just call somebody. We’re all just part of one big team, with some of the same goals in mind.”
While Lang has worked on a number of projects over the years, she said one of her biggest goals has been to bring Early Head Start to Creston.
“Early Head Start is serving 0 to 3, and currently we only serve 3- to 5-year-olds. It would reduce some of our Head Start slots in order that we could serve Early Head Start slots, and we would do that in partnership with the new daycare,” Lang said. “That’s been in the works for several years. I’d really like to know before I am retired, because we’ve worked on that for a long time.”
Another project has been creating an excellent work environment at Head Start, which is what Lang said kept her there for so long.
“Anybody that’s worked for Head Start has said, it kind of just pulls you in,” Lang said. “You love what you’re doing. The focus, the mission is kind of ingrained and you just want to keep moving it forward. We’ve really focused on wellness of staff.”
For the last few months, Lang has focused on transitioning the new director, Joel Lamb, into place. Lang believes Lamb is the perfect fit.
“You want to make sure that all our staff is well taken care of. Joel is a perfect fit,” Lang said. “He came from not anywhere in early childhood or anything, but he’s got the leadership skills that make him a great fit, and he just jumps into everything.”
Lang said that after her own confusing transition into the director position, she made sure to go through everything with Lamb.
“That’s been huge to have that time to work together. I started my position as a director Aug. 1 of 2001 with my main continuation grant due Sept. 1. I had no clue,” Lang said. “Succession is a bigger deal now than it was that many years ago. We’re very grateful that we’ve had this time to work together. He’s going to be fantastic.”
Now that Lamb is there to take the helm, Lang is excited to spend more time with her family in retirement.
“I have a couple of grandkids here, but I have a couple more in Des Moines, so I’m anxious to be able to go there just on a whim,” Lang said. “I also have a sister that lives in Florida and I usually go visit her every year, and now I might be able to stay just a little bit longer.”
Though she’s excited for this next step, Lang said she’ll miss those at Head Start.
“I’m just very blessed to have worked with the people I’ve been working with,” Lang said. “A truly amazing team.”