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Senior group's new president is ready for change

The Rosemount Area Seniors have a new president. Mel Engle hopes to attract more seniors to the group.

Mel Engle won't officially take over as president of the Rosemount Area Seniors until January, but there are already signs he's ready to take over. His photo is in the newest issue of the senior group's newsletter along with a note thanking members who volunteered over the past year. And he already has a list of people to call about joining the group.

Membership is going to be a big priority for Engle, who said the group has been too inflexible in recent years and unwilling to change to reflect members' evolving interests. He's seen too many people join for a year, then choose not to renew their membership because they are unhappy with the opportunities that are available to them.

Membership in the Rosemount Area Seniors has been as high as 400, but last year there were only 253 signed up and as of this week only 160 of those had renewed for next year.

"A lot of them back out," Engle said. "They didn't come back because of the way it was being run."

That will change next year, Engle promised. He wants to relax the role the president plays and let committees have freer rein in how they run their activities. He also wants to create more opportunities for members to engage in the activities that interest them. He hopes offering a kind of unstructured activity time after the group's monthly lunch meetings will encourage people to stick around rather than simply eating and leaving.

"One thing I've got to say about the Rosemount seniors, they don't get out and drive and energize people," Engle said. "They don't change."

Energizing people doesn't seem to be a problem for Engle. He's got plenty of his own energy. In addition to his duties with the Rosemount Area Seniors he runs a popular 500 game three days a week at Creekside Community Center in Bloomington and offers 500 lessons once a month. He's got a big laugh, and he loves getting to know new people.

He will have at least one other advantage when it comes to getting seniors excited about opportunities in Rosemount. Construction is expected to start next year on a long-awaited senior center, part of a planned senior-living complex that will go up on property next to the Rosemount Steeple Center. Rosemount seniors have been asking for years for the city to provide them a gathering place. They currently have access to a room at the Rosemount Community Center, but that gets taken away from time to time if the National Guard Unit based at the center needs the room. And Engle said some people just don't like the space no matter what is being offered there.

"A lot of people don't want to come over here," he said.

Engle himself was a casual member of the group for years before he got seriously involved. Like a lot of other members, he would show up for to play 500 or euchre. Then, in 2005, the group's vice president died and Forrest Krogh, who was president at the time, asked Engle to fill in. He's served as membership chair since then, and last summer he was in charge of Rosemount Area Seniors' efforts to sell buttons at Leprechaun Days. That project, which also involves signing up local businesses to offer prizes for a drawing at the end of the festival, is the group's biggest fundraiser.

Now, he's looking forward to taking on the group's biggest leadership role.

"I'm excited about it," he said.