COEUR d'ALENE - Dan English sat in his new office on Fourth Street Tuesday and smiled.
Animal characters from children's book author Richard Scarry's "Busytown" careen around the fabric of a colorful quilt adorning one of the office's walls. The blanket was crafted years ago, by English's wife.
The former Kootenai County Clerk is the new executive director of North Idaho CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), a job he stepped into in mid-October.
"This is all a bit of a coming home for me," English said.
Long before English's 15-year stint as county clerk began in 1995, he was doing the kind of work CASA is all about.
CASA provides volunteer court advocacy for children who have been removed from their homes because their parents or other legal guardians have abandoned, neglected or abused them. Appointed by a judge, a CASA volunteer investigates, reports and speaks on behalf of a child in court.
Just out of college, English worked for a time as a detective in the sheriff's juvenile division. Then, later in the '70s, he started Youth in Christ, a local Kootenai County nonprofit that served troubled teens, providing counseling and a volunteer sheltering program. In 1985, English started Anchor House-Idaho Youth Ranch, putting the program together from the ground up, developing the board and contracting with the state.
During those years, English earned a master's degree from Gonzaga and has been a licensed professional counselor for 20 years.
He served on the Coeur d'Alene School District Board of Trustees for five years, and then on the Coeur d'Alene City Council. While on the council, in 1995, he was appointed to the county clerk's position, which he held until January 2011.
"That all has been great background for my role here," English said.
For the last 18 months, he and his wife have been the live-in caretakers and resident managers of Twin Lakes Friends Camp, a ministry of Anthem Friends Church in Hayden. It's a beautiful place, English said, somewhere he imagined himself staying until he retires.
Then he saw the employment ad for the CASA job.
"Wow, I thought, that is really me," English said. "If I was up for one more full-time adventure - back in the saddle with kids and nonprofits - this is it."
With his wife's blessing, English applied.
When he was offered the position, English was the Democratic candidate for a District 2 seat in the Idaho House, the seat now held by Phil Hart.
"I'm perfectly happy and content with the outcome of the election. I'm glad I did it, but I'm really glad I can focus 100 percent on this," English said.
CASA is court-mandated, and receives grant funding, but relies heavily on donations in order to stay operational. Funds are needed to recruit, train and supervise volunteer advocates. The agency serves about 750 children annually in the state's five northern counties. In 2011, they helped 520 kids in Kootenai County.
English said they have 90 to 100 volunteer advocates throughout North Idaho.
"They're the heart of the program," he said.
While the agency's funding is always a concern, English said the most pressing need at this time is for more volunteer advocates. He encourages anyone who has ever entertained the idea of becoming a CASA volunteer, to step up. A new training class will be starting after the holidays, English said, so this is a good time to call the CASA office and get set up for the training.
"If you're looking for an opportunity to volunteer in a really meaningful way, this is really it," English said.
Contact North Idaho CASA at (208) 667-9165