Hoffman retires as DAC director

Fred Hoffman is retiring Dec. 31 after 37 1/2 years of directing and leading the buildup of the Mille Lacs County Developmental Achievement Center program for adults with developmental disabilities.The DAC program helps clients learn, improve and maintain life and some work skills.

Rod Peltoma, the new Mille Lacs DAC director, has been working into the role since Oct. 31 with help from Hoffman.

Hoffman, of rural Bock, wasn’t yet in charge of the Mille Lacs DAC program when it began in 1970, operating first in the Glendorado Lutheran Church basement for two years. Nor was Hoffman supervising it when the DAC moved to the upstairs of the then Princeton Armory for the next two years.

But Hoffman, with a degree in psychology and German, and three years experience as activities supervisor in a program similar to a DAC in Richfield, became the Mille Lacs DAC director in 1974. That was when the operation moved into an old potato warehouse in Milaca’s central business district.

The DAC was at the potato warehouse two to three years. Hoffman remembers, while there, watching the Greyhound bus stop at the small Pure Oil station and its attached cafe in the Milaca business district. When the Hibbing-bound Greyhound stopped, passengers would get out and go into the little cafe to have coffee, pie and use the rest room, Hoffman said.

It turned out that the Pure Oil building and cafe would become the future home of the DAC in about 1977, according to Hoffman, and two additions would be built on it to accommodate the growing number of DAC clients. The first addition was in about 1981 or so, and the second was in about 2006, Hoffman recalled.

But the demand for the DAC services in Mille Lacs County called for even more space. As a result, the county opened a second DAC in 1989, locating it in what is now an ice cream shop on First Street in downtown Princeton. The Princeton DAC outgrew that structure within a decade, moving to its current building which was originally the Red Owl grocery store just north of Princeton’s Holiday gas station.


From six to nearly 110

Today the Milaca DAC has about 59 clients and the Princeton DAC about 50. That compares to the approximately six Mille Lacs DAC clients in the program in 1974, Hoffman said. When the DAC in Milaca moved to the potato warehouse there were less than 30 clients and that jumped to 36 when the DAC moved to the Pure Oil station and cafe building.


Other changes

Not only has the number of clients increased greatly but the number of client cases that need more intensive services, including diapering, has risen significantly, say Hoffman and Mille Lacs County Commissioner Phil Peterson, who is on the DAC board. There are “more folks,” Peterson said of clients at the DAC, who are not able to do some of the minimal work that many clients do.

Part of the reason may be that 15-20 years ago, the state of Minnesota began closing down the state hospitals as they were called, with the mission of moving people with developmental disabilities more into society.

The biggest challenge that Hoffman indicated having during his years with the DAC, has been getting enough state and federal funding.

The Department of Human Services in St. Paul and the state Legislature sets the DAC per diem rates, which is what the DAC gets per client to operate, Hoffman explained.

Besides not enough reimbursement for the actual costs of running a DAC, the state is also looking at the possibility of requiring DAC personnel to record data on what takes place at the DAC at 15-minute intervals, Hoffman said. That would divert workers from caring for clients and make their jobs even more difficult and stressful with such frequent data collecting, Hoffman said.

Too many of the policy makers in government pass legislation and approve new policies without first going into the field to see how that would affect everyone, Hoffman said.


Retirement phase

Hoffman, 71, plans to spend more of his free time now overhauling car and tractor engines. The challenges of that won’t be the same and in some ways not as difficult, but Hoffman says he will miss the many clients and fellow workers at the DACs in Princeton and Milaca.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do the job without the rest of the staff members,” said Hoffman. “They’re the ones who did the good job. They should be getting the full credit.”

But there are people who have worked with Hoffman who might want to say something, too. One is DAC board chair Paul Reiman of Milaca. “We’re certainly going to miss him,” Reiman said of Hoffman. “He built that (DAC) program.”

“He’s done well,” agreed fellow DAC board member Peterson. “He’s very caring and concerned for those adults who need that service. Fred’s also a great guy.”