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A former La Crosse Tribune editor will be the next executive director of the La Crosse Public Education Foundation.

David Stoeffler, 55, will head the nonprofit responsible for this year’s community-wide art initiative, the La Crosse Compassion Project, and the Random Acts of Kindness grant program, which awarded $20,000 last year to La Crosse public school classrooms.

“When I saw this opportunity, it, to me, was sort of a perfect match with what I’m interested in doing at this point,” Stoeffler said. “Being able to help kids and help teachers every day.”

He replaces outgoing executive director Tim Riley, who joined the Foundation in July 2012, and departs in June. Riley will stay in the La Crosse area and remain President of the Pump House Regional Arts Center’s board of directors.

Riley spearheaded the Compassion Project, modeling it after a similar effort he helped organize in Appleton, Wis. The project asked about 7,000 students from La Crosse private and public schools to portray compassion through art. Thousands of 6-by-6-inch canvases are on display through June 28 at the Pump House and other community venues.

Riley declined to give his reason for leaving the foundation but said he will continue to help with the Compassion Project.

“I’ll continue to work in the education and the arts field,” Riley said.

Stoeffler graduated from Viterbo University in 1981 but had already started as a reporter at the Tribune, working nights, weekends and early mornings. The part-time job blossomed into a 35-year career in newspapers, ending this month when Stoeffler announced his resignation from the Springfield News-Leader, a Missouri newspaper, where he worked as executive editor.

“I’ve been anxious to be able to move home,” said the Mount Hope, Wis., native.

Stoeffler worked as the editor of the Tribune between 1995 and 1997 and helped launch the newspaper’s yearly Extra Effort awards series. The Extra Effort awards honor area high school seniors who have overcome obstacles or worked in service of their community.

The program is entering its 19th year.

“That was one of the biggest highlights of my time as editor of the Tribune,” Stoeffler said. “It’s great to see the program has continued on and flourished.”

News-Leader reporting under Stoeffler’s leadership inspired a Springfield community effort to improve early childhood education for every child. The first phase of the Every Child Promise includes helping eligible parents afford preschool.

Stoeffler is slated to start his new position at the La Crosse foundation June 9.

“I want to get re-established with the community,” Stoeffler said.

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