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Local nonprofits compete for leaders

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Seven Jefferson County nonprofits are competing for the region’s top leaders to run their agencies.

Executive director searches are underway for: Jefferson County Historical Society, Resolution Center of Jefferson and Lewis Counties, North Country Children’s Clinic, Mental Health Association in Jefferson County, Jefferson Community College Foundation, North Country Prenatal/Perinatal Council and Children’s Miracle Network of Northern New York at Samaritan Medical Center. All hope to have someone in place this summer.

Although some searches could stretch statewide or beyond, there is a mechanism in place for local residents who wish to become leaders. The Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce’s Jefferson Leadership Institute has, since its establishment in 1991, provided participants with a vast knowledge of community issues.

“One thing I’ve learned this year with it is it’s not so much the name of a leadership skill, it’s the day-to-day practice,” said Lynn M. Pietroski, the chamber’s CEO and president. “You’re learning how to tackle issues through collaboration, reaching out, and how to facilitate an event that makes money. Those are all things you can’t necessarily learn in the classroom setting.”

Each JLI class has 11 sessions with agencies and businesses throughout Jefferson County, ranging from health to history to nonprofits and tourism.

Mrs. Pietroski said as each JLI class works through its course, the institute also keeps in contact with some of the more than 400 alumni of the program. About 70 percent of those graduates are in a leadership or decision-making capacity locally, she said.

She said she was in awe of how many nonprofit executive director positions are open simultaneously.

While the Prenatal/Perinatal Council and Mental Health Association are just beginning their searches, other agencies, such as the Historical Society and the JCC Foundation, have gone back to the drawing board. Prenatal/Perinatal Council Executive Director Penny A. Ingham recently announced her retirement as she prepares to lead Lewis County Public Health, and former Mental Health Association Director Theodore R. Stiles Jr. just left May 31.

The Historical Society had some promising candidates for its executive director post, but only recently readvertised the position. A call seeking comment to board President Jeffrey M. Garvey was not immediately returned Monday. JCC President Carole A. McCoy said the community college also recently extended its advertisement a couple of weeks.

“We had hoped to have the position filled by mid-July, but we decided to extend our advertising period because we wanted a larger pool of candidates than we had so we’re now anticipating mid-August,” she said. “The foundation is working on the gala and many other things, so the sooner we have the person the better, but we definitely want him or her here before we start classes in the fall.”

Eventually, the Northern Regional Center for Independent Living will need a new director, but its board of directors found a way to fit the position for both the agency and Executive Director Brenda S. Campany. She originally wanted to retire last fall, but after the agency’s executive director search wasn’t successful, she agreed to work part-time.

“No doubt in time there will be a search for Brenda’s replacement, but we don’t have a timeline for that,” said Ronald Griffin, board president. “Everything is working out better than expected. Staff is stepping up and helping out when needed. Down the road when she decides she wants to permanently retire, we will be opening up a search.”

Meanwhile, the United Way of Northern New York recently announced Watertown Daily Times managing editor Robert D. Gorman as its next executive director. Chief Professional Officer Jayn M. Graves will retire at month’s end.

The Food Bank of Central New York, a Syracuse nonprofit that covers 11 counties, including Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence, also is in search of an executive director. Thomas F. Slater will retire from that post next month.

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