Local insurance agent honored

Matt Clysdale, president of Roseville's Maguire Agency, will be honored May 23 with the Foundation Fighting Blindness Visionary Award at the Marquette Hotel.

Julie Anderson, president of the group's Minnesota chapter, explained that a few years ago Clysdale played an instrumental role in helping set up a home office for employee Renee Germain. Both Anderson and Germain suffer from retinitis pigmentosa which is damage to the retina known to cause decreased vision at night or in low light, loss of peripheral vision causing tunnel vision, and, in advanced cases, loss of central vision.

Germain lives in Wisconsin and her co-workers at the Maguire Agency were increasingly concerned about her driving to Roseville everyday for work.

According to Anderson, the May 23 event will feature an awards ceremony and a "Dining in the Dark" event in which attendees will be blindfolded and the room's lights turned off as the meal is being served. Diners will then get a brief glimpse of what life is like for someone with vision loss.

"It forces you to rely on your other senses," Anderson noted.

"I needed to face reality," Germain said of her condition.

"We'd started to witness that she was struggling," Clysdale said.

Clysdale and other staff members quickly put their heads together and came up with the home office solution.

"Matt never even questioned it, he just helped me set up the home office," Germain explained. "Technology made it so smooth."

Said Clysdale, "We were going to do everything we could to make it happen."

He added he and other member's of the team had been kicking around the idea of setting up some home offices for certain employees, so Germain became something of a test case.

"We'd been exploring work at home and Renee agree to be our guinea pig," Clysdale said. "It was a seamless transition."

Since Germain's home office was set up, the company has added a couple of more home offices that have also met with success.

"We're using the same techniques and platforms we used for Renee," Clysdale said.

The only hiccup, Clysdale explained, is that employees at home can sometimes miss the energy that comes with being in an office.

"You do miss some of the osmosis of the office," he added.

Germain agreed, and explained there were times when she struggled emotionally with the transition because "it was just me and the four walls."

Germain recently retired from the insurance business to set up her own ministry.

Clysdale was very quick to point out he simply played a role in the Germain's home office solution along with other team members at the Maguire Agency. And as for the award, he admitted to being a little stunned by it.

"I was very humbled when I was nominated," he said. "I'm still at a little bit of a loss."

However, Germain didn't hesitate to praise her former boss.

"He's very kind and very humble and likable," she said. "I'm very happy for him, I think they made the right decision."

For more information on the Foundation Fighting Blindness visit www.blindness.org.

George Fairbanks can be reached at gfairbanks@lillienews.com or 51-748-7813.

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