Paula Nuessmeier stands by a U.S. flag Monday at the American Legion Club, shortly before a Noon Kiwanis Club meeting. She is a district director with the Twin Valley Council Boy Scouts. -- Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

Archived Story

All about Scouts

Published 10:30am Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What started as simply an after-school activity for her sons has become a career for a Blue Earth woman who spends much of her time in Albert Lea, Austin and the communities of southern Minnesota.

Paula Nuessmeier, 55, is the director for the Southern Trails and North Star districts of the Mankato-based Twin Valley Council Boy Scouts. The Southern Trails District takes in all of Freeborn and Mower counties, eastern Faribault County and southern Waseca County. The North Star District covers Jackson, Cottonwood, Watonwon and Martin counties and western Faribault County.

Between the two districts, Nuessmeier oversees 1,150 Scouts and 500 adults registered to lead the Scouts.

“Never would I have thought that a boy’s after-school curriculum would’ve become a job path for me,” she said.

The 1975 graduate of Blue Earth High School went to college to be a cook. Back then, her name was Paula Boettcher. She graduated from Mankato Vo-Tech College in 1977 with a degree in cooking and baking and a new last name. It was there she met her husband, Allen, who was from Austin, and studied to be a registered nurse. Mankato Vo-Tech today goes by the name South Central College and is based in North Mankato.

She worked at the Mankato Golf Club right out of school before she got a job at Madsen’s Value Center making cakes, a place that is now Cub Foods.

Paula and Allen favored small towns and settled in Blue Earth. She worked for 13 years as a restaurant cook, at places such as Dave & June’s Dining Room, a name that most likely brings back memories for some. Eventually, she left the restaurant field and became a nurse’s aid at St. Luke’s Lutheran Care Center in Blue Earth, a job she held for 14 years.

The couple had three sons, and Allen signed them up for Scouting. He became a den leader, and she helped out as an assistant. Their boys were in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. One made Eagle Scout.

Even though the youngest son was no longer in Scouts by 2000, Paula Nuessmeier remained active in the local pack and troop.

And by 2006, when she began working part-time as a paraprofessional in the North Star District, her sons were grown. Three months later, she was hired to work full-time. In 2008, she became the director of the Southern Trail District, and last summer, she became the director of both districts.

Being a director, let alone a director of two districts, is a job that requires a four-year degree. Nuessmeier got the role in part because of her two-year degree but largely thanks to her strong work ethic and good people skills. She had to go through a nine-month process and was ultimately screened by the national level.

One of her duties is to field questions from den leaders, unit leaders, Scout masters and, of course, parents. Moms and dads ask questions such as: Where is there an active unit my son can join? What programming is available? How does the Pinewood Derby work? Where do the Boy Scouts camp?

In the summers, Nuessmeier stays busy, without weekends to herself. When she isn’t planning Scouting activities, she is at them.

“Quite often in the summer, you’ll find me manning a BB gun or archery range at one of the camps,” she said.

Organizing, planning and going to activities, which she calls programming, is her favorite part of the job. However, the work has its office duties, too. She has to make sure registrations are squared away and handle all kinds of routine paperwork.

A big part of the work is fundraising. She is a member of the Albert Lea Noon Kiwanis Club, which like many service clubs donate funds to the Boy Scouts and to the Girl Scouts. The Boy Scouts withdrew from applying for United Way funds in Freeborn County. With the amount donated reduce year after year and increased restrictions, the time was better spent pursuing funding elsewhere. The Boy Scouts still receive funds from the United Way of Mower County.

And then there is recruitment. Parents are busy between jobs and the kids, so they want to know whether getting their sons involved is worth the time.

“Fliers don’t get the job done anymore,” Nuessmeier said.

She finds success with parents speaking to other parents and getting the word out that Boy Scouts are quite flexible for kids who might skip a season due to school sports. Boys no longer join only in the fall. They can enter Scouting year-round.

Scouts are known for camping and learning to respect and enjoy the outdoors, but Nuessmeier said they especially emphasize the leadership and citizenship qualities boys learn in Scouting.

Now and then, she will be asked about the Boy Scouts’ stance in opposition to homosexuality; she simply tells people that the policy is set at the national level and she’s not able to address the issue.

She said the Boy Scouts cherish many values they have had for 102 years, but they have changed with the times. They have a strong push on physical fitness and lately have been doing more with science, technology and mathematics.

Cooking is still in her blood. Nuessmeier worked the past two years as a cook at the national jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia. She has been to Cuyuna Scout Camp near Crosslake in northern Minnesota. She has been to Stearns Scout Camp south of St. Cloud. She has been to the national Boy Scouts headquarters in Irving, Texas, twice. She has been to the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico twice. She has been to local camps, too, such as the Cedar Point Scout Camp south of Fairmont and the Norseland Scout Camp northwest of St. Peter. And she even has slept with dinosaurs at the Science Museum of Minnesota.

In one form or another, Nuessmeier has been a part of the Boy Scouts of America for 26 years.

Paula Nuessmeier

Age: 55

Address: 220 W. Seventh St., Blue Earth

Livelihood: director for Southern Trails and North Star districts of the Twin Valley Council Boy Scouts

Family: husband, Allen; three grown sons Aaron, 32, Joshua, 28, John, 27

Interesting fact: Nuessmeier is a certified scuba diver. She learned it with her middle son when he was a teenager. She will scuba dive when she goes to Mexico in two weeks.