Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Penney Residents Have Their Say; and It's Worth State Award to Administrator

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Penney Residents Have Their Say; and It's Worth State Award to Administrator

Article excerpt

Byline: Beth Reese Cravey, Clay County Line staff writer

Among the folks who live at Penney Retirement Community, President Robert "Bob" Rigel wins high praise for firmly yet gently taking the 79-year-old haven for the elderly into the 21st century.

Since he arrived as administrator in 2001, Rigel implemented rate increases, nudged the community's population upward and built new facilities, but managed to do so without alienating residents, they said.

"He is wonderful with people, even if you don't agree with him," said resident Joan Vandegrift. "He listens and he respects everyone. That kind of respect is hard to come by."

Such testimony led residents to nominate Rigel for a prestigious honor among his peers. Based on a thick packet of kudos from residents, the community's board of directors and Penney Farms town officials, among others, the Florida Association of Homes for the Aging recently named Rigel its executive of the year for 2004.

Rigel said he was overwhelmed by the honor, particularly because of who put his name in the hat.

"I know the quality of the applicants that come up . . . for executive of the year. Most are promoted by their boards, corporate-type people, or by staff," he said. "To have the residents, the people you serve, make the nomination is a special honor, a rare occurrence."

Rigel was recognized at the association's 41st annual convention, held in Orlandothis month, and at a special luncheon ceremony at Penney Farms this week. When Rigel and his wife, Karen, arrived for the ceremony in the community dining room, which was decorated with congratulatory balloons, he was greeted by a standing ovation.

"Thanks is only a six-letter word. I feel the need for a bigger word," he said. "I thank you so very much . . . I really appreciate that it came from all of you."

Rigel said credit for the community's advances also should go to the board, staff and the residents themselves, who reacted positively to "difficult decisions" during his tenure that produced rate increases, construction noise and disruption of the community golf course, among other things.

Becky Hight is president of the community's residents' association. …

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