As a child with no dental insurance, Misty Schulze recalls being terrified of the dentist.
She said she was treated poorly by the staff at a free clinic in Denver.
Now, in her new role as director of the Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition, she hopes to make going to the dentist a positive experience for local children.
"I'm serious about making them feel comfortable here," Schulze said. "I care about these little smiles."
Schulze took over as director of the coalition April 17. She fills a void left by Debi Harmon, who helped found the organization and has served as director for four years. Harmon and her husband, Mark, are moving to Montrose.
Schulze was formerly the juvenile diversion officer for the District Attorney's Office. That position will be filled by Tara Jenrich, former director of Moffat County Partners.
Schulze served as the juvenile diversion officer for nine years. Before that, she was the academic department secretary at Colorado Northwestern Community College.
She was a member of the Crisis Intervention Team for five years and has served as grant administrator for Grand Futures Prevention Coalition since 2003.
Schulze said she will continue her role with Grand Futures as she begins her new job. Grand Futures also is seeking a director. The deadline for applications was Friday, and Schulze said the board will review applicants soon.
Schulze said her community involvement keeps her busy, but that she is ready to dedicate herself to the dental coalition.
Harmon has been training Schulze since she started April 17, and will stay on through Friday. After that, Harmon will remain active with the organization as a consultant.
Harmon said she is comfortable leaving the coalition in Schulze's hands.
"Misty really stood out (among six other applicants)," Harmon said. "There was no doubt she was the perfect candidate for the job."
Schulze said she was ready for a change in her career. She's been working with teenagers who typically are not excited to see the anti-drug and alcohol officer. But, at the dental coalition, it's a different story.
Even if the children are afraid of shots and drills, the patients and their parents appreciate the importance of dental health, Schulze said.
"They're just so grateful for the service. They're so happy to be here," Schulze said. "It's just a breath of fresh air."
Plus, Schulze said, she has a commitment to the community. She moved to Craig in the seventh grade. She and her husband, Mason, have no plans of leaving soon, she said.
"We're definitely here for the long-term, and I think that's important for any organization like this -- for familiarity and trust," Schulze said.
Most of all, she said she hopes she can fill the void left by Harmon's absence.
"I want to do my best to make sure every kid out there is served and served well," Schulze said.
Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 204, or email@example.com.