Susi Q executive director retires

Bea Field, who came out of retirement to lead Laguna Beach Seniors Inc. in the successful transition from the cramped Legion Hall to the spacious Susi Q, has retired.

Carole Zavala, who convinced Field to apply for the job as executive director of the seniors group about four years ago, is heading the search for a new director.

"Bea proved to be a godsend," said Chris Quilter, president of the seniors. "She has a great set of skills and she is local — the kind of leader you fall in love with.

"I am so grateful to her — the transition to the Susi Q was enormous and she came out of retirement to do it."

Field said it was a team effort.

"I keep saying this was not a one-woman job," Field said. "It was all of us working together to make it happen."

Field had 25 years of experience in management, fundraising, team building and program development when she was enticed out of retirement to head the seniors.

And she was no stranger to Laguna, a decided plus, according to Quilter.

"Laguna has always been like a second home to me," Field said. "My parents owned homes here, and I came to Laguna as a kid and I brought my kids here."

Moreover, she had professional ties to Laguna and knew how the city operates.

"It is so important in Laguna to have someone who has knowledge of the city," Quilter said.

Unfortunately, that knowledge doesn't always mean that the person has the necessary skills to get the job done, Quilter said.

That was not a case with Field.

Field was executive director of the Laguna Beach Community Clinic from 1982 to 1987.

Her job included the administration of all facets of multi-specialty medical and counseling clinics and negotiated contracts with federal, state and county agencies

She planned, implemented and evaluated all of the clinic's programs while supervising staff, volunteers, physicians, nurses and counselors that totaled 200.

Under her direction, revenues increased by 300%.

Field first met Zavala when she worked at the clinic.

"Carole was on the board when I was the director," Field said. "I don't think anyone else could have talked me into applying for the job with the seniors."

Field also served as director of the youth shelter in Laguna from 1995 to 1998.

As administrator of all facets of the organization, she recruited, trained and supervised staff and volunteers.

A post graduate course in fundraising Field took at UC Irvine paid off for the shelter — she raised an additional $75,000 above the usual revenue.

Before her first stint in Laguna, Field directed the Catholic Immigration and Resettlement Agency from 1975 to 1981.

She was responsible for the successful relocation of Southeast Asian refugees and the resolution of legal issues of immigrants from other countries.

She administered and coordinated all agency operations and established a program of more than 500 volunteers.

Work programs she developed became models throughout the United States and abroad.

Under her leadership the agency increased revenue from $90,000 to more than $1 million.

Field also was responsible for building, organizing and opening the new site of the Boys & Girls Club of Capistrano Valley where she was assistant executive director and director of fund development from 1998 to 2001.

She coordinated the capital campaign that raised $2.2 million; was instrumental in producing the club's first business plan; and supervised club operations, staff and programs.

Just prior to hiring on as executive director of the Susi Q, Field had headed up the South County Community Services Council in 2005 and 2006. The job involved coordinating all the programs and projects with the board of directors and supervising staff and volunteers, while maintaining positive relations with South County cities, service clubs and the council's 148 member agencies.

Organizational and fundraising skills honed throughout her career benefitted the Susi Q, Quilter said.

"We were a mom-and-pop organization before Bea, and you can't have that in a modern senior center," he said. "Our next leader will be building on a lot the foundations Bea has created."

How does Field feel about handing over the reins?

"I have this feeling of loss," Field said. "But I like designing and organizing projects — I don't like maintenance. The thing that is so difficult is they are all such wonderful people. I would never be able to just walk away from them."

Field will be available for odd jobs, she said, such as organizing the senior's next Legacy Ball.

Quilter said the goal is to have Field's successor in place by January.

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