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Archive for Thursday, August 20, 2009

Former city leadership settles in with KU athletics

August 20, 2009

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Two longtime public servants are pleased to be continuing their careers in a different kind of arena.

Debbie Van Saun and Frank Reeb, former co-workers at Lawrence City Hall, are back on the same team — this time with Kansas Athletics Inc.

Reeb, who left municipal employment in June, is the new director of human resources for KU Athletics. He joins a departmental leadership team that has included Van Saun since 2007.

“I was looking at retirement, and instead I made a career change, so that’s probably the most exciting thing for me,” said Van Saun, who worked as assistant city manager before becoming an associate athletics director and senior woman administrator at KU. “It’s just been a really, really good experience, and I’m still having fun.”

Van Saun is no stranger to the crimson and blue. She earned her bachelor’s degree in education from KU in 1973 and returned to Mount Oread to pick up a master’s degree in public administration in 1991.

She’s always been a loyal KU fan. Her husband, Paul, even played football for the Jayhawks, as a defensive lineman on KU’s 1973 Liberty Bowl team.

“I’m the only one in my family who was not a Division I athlete,” she said, noting that son Joseph swam at Boston College and daughter Kristen swam at Notre Dame.

Van Saun keeps plenty busy with intercollegiate competition from her administrative post. She supervises five KU sports — rowing, swimming, softball and men’s and women’s golf — while also overseeing financial aid, student athlete development and community outreach for all sports.

“It’s awesome,” she said. “I love it. I miss the people and my former co-workers at the city of Lawrence, but I have thoroughly enjoyed learning new things and doing new things. It’s very exciting, working with students and colleagues at Kansas Athletics.”

It’s certainly different than working in an office at the city’s Kaw River Water Treatment Plant, where she’d been the city’s assistant director of utilities, or crunching budget numbers from a manager’s office on the fourth floor at City Hall.

After more than 28 years on the city payroll, Van Saun, 57, embraces the opportunity to branch out.

“I attended seven Big 12 championships just this past spring,” she said. “There’s a lot of travel — and to places as exotic as Lubbock, Texas — but it’s great. It’s a wonderful experience.

“Probably the thing I enjoy most is the interaction with the student athletes. I didn’t have a lot of that type of personal interaction with the city, working with budgets and department heads and planners and developers. I love it.”

Reeb knows the feeling.

During his nearly eight years at City Hall, Reeb served as city clerk and director of administrative services. The posts gave him responsibility for handling official city ordinances, overseeing the city’s risk-management program and managing a variety of personnel issues for a sprawling municipal operation that was very much in the public eye.

Nowadays, Reeb finds himself focusing solely on the human-resources needs for Kansas Athletics Inc., an organization with 194 full-time employees and, on average, another 300 part-timers.

Among functions under his responsibility: employee benefits, employee relations and, yes, recruiting.

“That’s in the employment sense,” Reeb said with a laugh.

Like Van Saun, Reeb also feels comfortable working on campus. In 1982 he received a KU bachelor’s degree in meteorology, having petitioned the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for the “special” major. He earned a KU law degree in 1992.

Since joining the Kansas Athletics staff in July, Reeb has been busy meeting with supervisors and others to become familiar with their operations and needs. He’s also looking forward to attending KU games and matches as an employee, and continuing to do so as a fan.

Reeb’s daughters — Savannah, 12, and Macie, 10 — especially enjoy watching volleyball at Horejsi Family Athletics Center, and son Myles, 9, is all about the crimson and blue.

Just like dad.

“It’s a family-oriented atmosphere,” Reeb said. “I’ve felt welcome from day one.”

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