Kinseth set to retire

Tom Kinseth spent the better part of 35 years teaching, coaching and leading young minds as an educator.

His career reached all corners of academic and athletic life, from his work as an assistant in the early stages to an administrator at the end. Responsibilities and job requirements spanned all things big and small.

Through it all, Kinseth’s loyalty never wavered.

”It was always about the kids,” said Kinseth, who will retire as Fort Dodge Senior High’s athletic and activities director on June 30. ”I felt that way on my first day and I’ll feel that way on my last. Working with and working for the kids is what I’ve enjoyed the most – and what I’ll miss the most.”

The 56-year-old Kinseth has mixed emotions about leaving a post he inherited from Don Miller in 2002 – especially after being honored recently as the state’s top high school athletic director. Still, he feels like the time is right.

”Once you get to the point where you actually make the decision (to officially retire), it’s not as easy as you’d think it might be,” Kinseth said. ”I still love my job and I’ll always be a Dodger, but the hours and the work eventually take a toll.

”I’m just so appreciative of this opportunity. My goal from day one as (an athletic and activities director) was to keep the good things good and try my best to make improvements when necessary. I wanted to be at as many events as possible to support our students.

”Fortunately, I had terrific mentors in (former FDSH athletic directors) Dutch (Huseman) and Don. It wasn’t easy following in their footsteps, but I tried my best to maintain and put my own stamp on (the position).”

Kinseth graduated from Algona High School in 1974 and Buena Vista College in 1978, then coached and taught at Lohrville for two years before accepting a job with the Fort Dodge Community School District in 1980. He was a teacher at South Junior High, FDSH and Phillips Middle School.

Kinseth served as the Dodger girls basketball coach for 11 years and the boys golf coach for eight seasons. He also assisted the high school track and football programs, then won numerous awards during his time as the Phillips athletic director from 1994 through 2001.

”Tom has been a valuable asset to the district for a long, long time,” FDCS superintendent Doug Van Zyl said. ”We’re losing someone with a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge. He’s had a great handle not only on (the position itself), but the district and state tournaments we host here in Fort Dodge on an annual basis.

”His ability to manage different situations and work well with people on both the athletic and activities side of the job will be missed. We appreciate everything he’s done.”

Kinseth’s tenure faced the challenge of declining enrollment and budget crunches as a member of the Central Iowa Metro League – the state’s premier athletic conference.

”It hasn’t been easy to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak, from an athletic standpoint,” said Kinseth, who earned his Master’s Degree from Drake University in 2002. ”I try to remind people that these days, we’re closer enrollment-wise to a Newell-Fonda than West Des Moines Valley.

”Still, we’ve accomplished some tremendous goals here (in the last decade). I’m very proud of that. Just like any other job, there are certain things you’d do differently if you had the chance. But for the most part, I have very few regrets.

”I’ve tried to let the coaches run their programs without being overbearing. There is a trust and a respect factor that has to be in place for this to work.”

Kinseth credited the unwavering support of the district, his staff and the community for keeping a hectic schedule successfully in balance.

”I have so many people to thank,” Kinseth said. ”The administration, the coaches, the student-athletes, the volunteers – Fort Dodge is a special place, and I couldn’t have reached this point without the collective help of everyone.

”It’s been a great time in my life. We tend to take things for granted here, whether it be the facilities or the events we are allowed to host. I’ve been to other states and I’ve been to national conventions, and let me say this: we have it good here. Very good. I’m just glad I was a part of it.”

Kinseth and his wife, Shanda, plan to stay in town for the immediate future. Their three children – Ryan, Brandon and Marissa – are also Fort Dodge residents.