New Beginnings

Standard photo/Marisa Patwa

Historic Newburgh Inc.'s brand new director, Ashley Nanninga, with her four-week-old son Thatcher.

Historic Newburgh Inc. has finally found its new director after a five-month-long search,

Meet Ashley Nanninga, a 33-year-old mother of four who is a sixth-generation Newburgh citizen.

Historic Newburgh Inc., searched long and hard for the perfect fit after their last hire, Cris Fulford, left the job after only four months last fall. Before Fulford, Helen Zimmerman had the job for two years, but left to take a job with the Children's Museum of Evansville. And before Zimmerman, Newburgh Town Councilwoman Carol Schaefer had the job.

The Historic Newburgh Inc., director has many vital roles including writing grant applications, helping to coordinate several of their major events alongside events coordinator Amber Kelly, including the annual Wine Fest, Farmers Market, free family movie nights and the fireworks show in the summer and the Ghost Walks in the fall, in addition to writing weekly columns for The Warrick County Standard.

"They're basically the face of HNI," said Stacie Krieger, a Newburgh Town Councilwoman who recently stepped down as the HNI board president due to reaching her term limit. "They run the day to day office, they manage the volunteers, they are in charge of membership."

Nanninga, who studied meteorology at Purdue University and moved back to Newburgh just a few years ago after living in Michigan, Colorado and Las Vegas, Nevada with her husband, said she originally applied for the role when Fulford got it, as she had just resigned from her role as a science teacher at Castle North Middle School.

"But Cris was very experienced and I didn't have as much experience so, I totally understood," said Nanninga, who is also a mom to 9-year-old Nathan, 7-year-old Charlotte and 4-year-old Jonah. "So, I continued to volunteer with the Farmer's Market and Park Pals."

But when the job became open again, Nanninga had already discovered she was pregnant with her son Thatcher.

HNI kept their options open but their search was fruitless -- until they circled back around to Nanninga.

"I told them, 'I know I may not be the perfect fit, but I am willing to learn and do the best I can,'" Nanninga said. "It was amazing when I found out I got the job but also a little scary. I feel reassured though knowing there are so many people willing to teach me and I am ready to do well."

HNI has worked with Nanninga throughout her pregnancy to prepare her for the role and she officially started on Monday, April 1. The only caveat: her son Thatcher was born 6-weeks early as Nanninga had preeclampsia and HNI is letting her keep him in her office until he is strong enough to be able to go to daycare.

"If you really want to be successful at something," Nanninga said. "You can still perform your duties and have a family."

Rick Culiver, the new president of the HNI board, said although they haven’t allowed employees to keep their children in the office before, with Nanninga, it was an understandable exception,

“Of course, we have not had a director who has young children like that,” he said, “And I think, the standards of business practices have changed to be more flexible and because of that, and based on Ashley and what we know of her, we thought that she could handle both when we were considering her baby coming to work with her.”

Nanninga said she wouldn't be able to do this new job without the support of her loving husband, Nick.

"He is phenomenal and all on board," she said. "He is even taking a vacation day for me next week to watch Thatcher."

Krieger said Nanninga is the perfect choice for this role due to her experience as a volunteer and her drive for Newburgh.

"She wanted something where she could give back to the community so she has got the right attitude and personality," she said. "And she is just excited about the job, so it was great fit."

Nanninga said she loves the town she grew up in and it's one of the reasons she moved her family back here.

"I have so many roots here and I am comfortable here," she said. "And it is a great place to raise a family."

Being able to connect with the citizens of Newburgh is what Nanninga said she is looking forward to most in her new role.

"Newburgh is moving forward at a great frequency," she said. "And I can't wait to get more involved with all of the merchants and to support them in the economic revitalization of our small but mighty town of Newburgh."

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