Jill Scarzo, Program Assistant for Huron Pines, is retiring Dec 18 after 23 years with our organization.
Scarzo joined the staff in 1997 as a part-time assistant when Huron Pines was based in Grayling and had one full-time employee. In her role at the front desk, Scarzo has been the face of the organization for volunteers, partners and prospective donors. For those who have called the office, stopped by or attended a volunteer event hosted by Huron Pines over the last two decades, Scarzo was likely the first to greet them.
“I believe we’ve been able to have good success at Huron Pines because of the quality of people we’ve attracted to the organization and the level of effort they put into it, be it as volunteers, board members or staff,” said Executive Director Brad Jensen. “Jill takes that to another level. The consistency she’s provided and her interest in passing down her knowledge and experience to the next generation of staff has helped shape our work over the years.”
Scarzo has seen the organization grow and its programs evolve. She has been a driving force behind the scenes as Huron Pines moved offices from Grayling to Gaylord in 2012 and opened a new office in Alpena in 2020.
“She brought professionalism, hard work and insight to the organization and focused on making sure we had the appropriate support for our work.”Lisha Ramsdell, Associate Director
Among the most notable developments she’s seen in her time at the organization, Scarzo said, were new opportunities and programs like the Kirtland’s Warbler Initiative, which enhances breeding habitat for the endangered songbird in Northern Michigan.
“Just watching the scope of our work and funders open up over the years has really been amazing,” Scarzo said. “I’ve been proud of working for Huron Pines. It has high standards and I’ve always felt good about it.”
Scarzo is a graduate of University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in music — a skill she said has served her well in a career managing professional contacts and finances.
“There’s actually a lot of commonalities between the two,” she said. “It takes an attention to detail and a desire to get things exactly right.”
That skill has not gone unnoticed by Associate Director Lisha Ramsdell.
“She’s very precise and detail oriented, which is very important for the work we do,” Ramsdell said. “She brought professionalism, hard work and insight to the organization and focused on making sure we had the appropriate support for our work.”
Scarzo is a skilled musician and vocalist, serving as musical director and organist at Michelson Memorial United Methodist Church in Grayling. Nancy Goodyear sings in the choir and praise band at the church where Scarzo, in typical years, directs a large community Christmas concert.
“Playing at our church is near and dear to her,” Goodyear said. “She’s so musically inclined and is a vocal coach for many of us. We’d be lost without her and, if she’s half as good at her job as she is at the church, I know she’s going to be missed.”
Scarzo joins her husband, Tony, in retirement and is looking forward to day trips and adopting a dog. As for conservation work, she feels there’s still much to be done but that there is strong support for the work in Northern Michigan.
“Lots of people are doing things in their own realm or their own river system,” she said. “Huron Pines is always trying to get people to think about the region as a whole and has broadened the scope and mindsets of people, and there are so many good conservation leaders here that have been great to work with.”
Personal messages were recorded by current and former Huron Pines staff and compiled into a video as a virtual sendoff for Jill. You can watch the video below.