Dedication, focus on people keep HR Director engaged for 40 years

In her four decades serving ProAct, Jo Ann Peine’s joys are many, but high on her list is watching participants grow and advance in their life goals and doing her part to make ProAct an employee-friendly place to work.

“I enjoy working with the staff and like helping them with things like benefits, employment verifications, and more,” said Peine, who is director of human resources.

Keeping time, tedious payroll process early on

When she joined the organization in 1982, the 10-year-old nonprofit that began in Hastings was called Owobopte and operated from a Lakeville facility. A friend recommended Owobopte, where Peine accepted a timekeeper position.

Payroll for participants was all done by manual calculation because there were no computers, and it was a tedious and time-consuming process, she recalls. “I would do the manual calculations which were then sent to our accounting firm, and they processed the checks.”

Computers eventually came, perhaps one at the start, and were very slow, but payroll could then be done in-house. Peine has since held six more positions and worked directly for four agency presidents.

Belief in mission, care for employees kept her here

“I have stayed because I believe in what we do, it has been a good company to work for,” she said, noting that ProAct’s presidents and the board have taken great strides to make sure employees are taken care of and appreciated. “So, there was never a reason to leave the company.”

Peine followed ProAct as it moved to a facility near Highway 13 in Eagan and then to its current headquarters in the late 1990s.

Stronger through merger, HR integral to nonprofit’s future

One of the biggest changes came in 2002, when, while serving as human resources coordinator, she played a key role Owobopte’s merger with Interstate Rehabilitation Center (IRC) in Red Wing. Taking the name of IRC’s satellite site in Zumbrota, ProAct emerged as a larger and stronger overall operation and Peine was promoted to human resources manager.

ProAct Senior Program Manager Pam Veith in Red Wing said she’s enjoyed working with Peine for two decades, describing her as professional, trustworthy, always available and willing to listen. “ProAct has been lucky to have her expertise all these years.”

Peine is HR department, assisted with new Hudson site, Shakopee merger

ProAct Vice President Kim Feller said Peine is a “one person show” who manages all HR functions, including payroll, staff recruitment, and agency compliance, to name a few. “She knows every ProAct team member by name (over 150) as well as their ID numbers.”

Peine again played an essential role in the expansion of services into Hudson, Wis. in 2009 and during the merger with Scott County’s New Options day program in Shakopee in 2018.

Senior Program Manager Ali Brown in Shakopee said she uses Peine’s expertise all the time. “Jo Ann is loyal, hardworking, caring and a whole lot more,” said Brown. She’s been seeing her more lately as Peine meets with new employees on their first day. “Jo Ann may not know, but this is such a relief and I appreciate it.”

Quiet, steady behind the scenes, with heart for people

Feller said Peine is ProAct’s historian, counselor and event planner, as well. “She has an extended list of duties . . . all behind the scenes, just making things happen,” she said.

Life and any job are not without harder days, and Peine said hearing that a current or former participant or staff member has passed away is always difficult.

“We have lost a lot of great people,” she said. “There have also been a lot of great participants and staff who have retired, and while that is great for them, it is sad for us as an organization to see them go.”

Family first, farm life, flowers

The HR director’s working life at ProAct has coincided with advancements in her personal life, as well. Since she started, Peine has gotten married, has three children and now three grandchildren.

“It’s fair to say that although Jo Ann takes great pride in her work at ProAct, there is nothing more important to her than time spent with family,” said Feller.

Together with her husband, Dave, the Peines raise cash crops (soybeans, corn, sweet corn, hay and wheat) and care for beef cattle and hogs on a farm just outside of New Trier. In her free time, Jo Ann tends to her many flower gardens around the farm, offering rich bursts of color to passersby through the summer months and into the fall, Feller explains.

“From all of us at ProAct- congratulations Jo Ann for 40 years,” said President and CEO Judie Foster-Lupkin. “You are a true gift to ProAct and we appreciate you!”