Retiring HAC executive director will miss ‘the challenge’

Jack Huisingh, the executive director of Holland Aquatic Center, is stepping down from his role at the end of June after more than 10 years at the helm.

There’s a lot he’s going to miss about the job, he says.

“I’ll miss the challenge required to make it happen every day. I’ll miss the excellent HAC team we’ve developed and the excitement that comes in achieving some of the biggest goals I’ve ever been part of,” Huisingh says. “I’ll miss a board of directors that volunteered to make this dream happen, had my back and stuck it out to make it happen. I’ll miss a foundation board that made our dreams even better. Overall, I was blessed to be part of a great leadership team that can be proud of handing something really cool to our next generation.”

The feeling is mutual, say the people who have worked with Huisingh. 

“Jack’s leadership has been pivotal for HAC,” says Sara Giesler, who recently retired as chair of the HAC board of directors after serving nine years. “HAC would not be where it is today without him. Beyond his astute business acumen, community connections, and strong negotiating skills, Jack has a passion for creating opportunities for everyone to succeed and win.

“Whether it is with staff, kids learning to swim, teams competing, or special programs like Silver Sneakers and Rock Steady boxing, he loves to see people getting better, doing better, and becoming a better version of themselves. He has led the transformation of our facility and, with it, many lives. He will be missed.”

Desire for community involvement

Huisingh became the leader of HAC in October 2013 after a successful 29-year career in the automotive supply industry, where he held various roles in sales and management for Donnelly-Magna Corp. and Prince Corp./Johnson Controls. He left the private sector to lead a public organization because of his desire to make a lasting impact on his community.

Jack Huisingh speaks at a HAC event.

“Eleven years ago, I felt a pull to become more involved and improve something in our community that would last for generations, particularly at an organization that was near and dear to my heart,” says Huisingh, who was a competitive swimmer for Holland High School and Hope College. “HAC was that place. I learned how to swim here, competed in high school, watched both of my children and now my grandchildren swim here. It is just a special place for me.”

He adds that the job gave him a chance to connect with his lifelong passion of swimming.

“I know now that God was preparing me to help improve this place for our next generation, just like the leaders before me,” he says.

First job: expansion

When Huisingh came on board, the facility was at capacity and struggling. 

“This community’s biggest accomplishment is that it wanted to work together to make our pools into a true aquatics and wellness place that served both the community and provided something very good on a national level,” says Huisingh. 

In 2015, two years into his tenure, Huisingh realized that HAC needed to expand if it were to operate competitive, community, and fitness programming simultaneously. At the time, several community offerings, such as Family Splash time and community lap swim, had to be canceled in order to host competitive swim meets.

Jack Huisingh talks with visitors at a HAC event.

After three years of research, Huisingh and the HAC board asked taxpayers to approve a bond proposal for $26.3 million over 20 years to add more than 50,000 square feet for community wellness and recreation. The new plans called for a new five-lane practice pool; a warm-water lap pool; expanded family recreation areas; an indoor track; and other amenities. In a 2019 special election, 63% of those who voted approved of the plan.

Additionally, voters approved every five-year millage renewal for the HAC, with 75% backing the most recent request in 2023.

More offerings

Because of the expansion, which was completed in 2022, HAC’s staff has grown from 70 employees in 2019 to 142 today. Annual daily visits to HAC have grown from 200,000 before the renovation to more than 350,000 in 2023. Fitness offerings – in the water and on land – grew from a handful of classes in 2019 to more than 40 classes in 2023.

Huisingh also was the impetus behind bringing rehabilitation and therapy programs to HAC. From 2021 to 2022, Mary Free Bed Hospital, of Grand Rapids, signed on to house a Lakeshore location in HAC’s west wing from 2021 to 2022. Today, HAC and The Center for Physical Rehabilitation, of Grand Rapids, are partnering for this purpose.

“We are very thankful to Holland residents who agreed to help us make this place for every age, every family, every day,” says Huisingh, who also served as a trustee on the Board of Education for Holland Public Schools from 2001 to 2013. “This is truly a place for our community to come together, all year-round, to experience connection and fitness and fun.

“I have been blessed to be a part of a team that works tirelessly to impact and
improve the health and wellness of our community today and for generations to come,” Huisingh concludes. “This has been the perfect place for me to finish my career.”
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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.