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Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Leaders needed

Hollie Grimaldi Flores
Laura Mahaffy/lmahaffy@theunion.com | The Union

Have you ever wondered what it is about some people that seem to make them born leaders while others (seemingly, the majority) are happy to simply follow along?

Beyond elected positions (that have people running unopposed or are left with empty seats to fill) lately there seem to be many openings in leadership positions in Nevada County. If you are “born to lead” and ready to put in some challenging work, I can’t think of a time in recent history with more opportunities than right now.

Both Nevada City and Grass Valley are searching for new city managers. Bob Richardson began what appears to be a trend in February when he resigned quite unexpectedly from his city manager position in Grass Valley to return to the role in Auburn. In just a few years, he made a significant impact and did an excellent job. It is hard to argue that fact, even amid the disappointment in his departure. Finding a worthy replacement has kept city council members busy for several months.



Following Richardson’s lead, Nevada City city manager Mark Prestwich announced his resignation in June. He accepted the same role with the city of St. Helena in Napa County which he began at the end of last month. He, too, stayed a brief three years before returning to familiar surroundings — having worked in Napa before finding his way to Nevada City.

Coincidental or not, the Prestwich announcement was followed by an avalanche of resignations of several executive directors of key nonprofit organizations who have left or announced plans to leave, leaving me wondering the toll this role takes on the people who say yes to it.




The Economic Resource Council, The South Yuba River Citizens League and Hospice of the Foothills all made announcements of Executive Director resignations in June. Hospitality House, Music in the Mountains, The Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition and the Grass Valley Downtown Association have all had leadership changes over the past two years.

The Economic Resource Council ran through several executive directors over the previous decade. Board members felt they finally found the right match in Jon Gregory, who was hired in 2014. Gregory had some major successes, including helping to secure a half million-dollar federal grant. It was spent researching and identifying a niche industry for Nevada County — namely focusing on virtual and augmented reality companies with a concentrated effort on getting those types of businesses to move here.

But that money is long gone and Gregory announced in June he has accepted a high-ranking position at Five Star Bank leaving the board of directors once again searching for a worthy candidate to lead the organization.

Hospice of the Foothills announced the resignation of Executive Director Carolyn Peterson (or rather the decision to not renew her contract when it expires in January 2018). Peterson steered the organization through the difficult decision to close the 12-bed inpatient hospice care facility in a successful effort to “stop the bleeding” and keep the many other services hospice offers available to county residents in need. A stressful time for certain.

Also in June, South Yuba River Citizens League’s executive director, Caleb Dardick, announced he would no longer be leading the river advocacy organization effective September of this year. He will be leaving the area, stating in part, “… the time has come for me to return to the Bay Area to support my wife as she starts a new career there, just as she supported me in returning to the Yuba watershed in 2011 to lead SYRCL …”

In between, the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition board decided against replacing their executive director, Gayle Guest Brown, who resigned in 2016 after four years of service. They opted for shared management roles with three areas of leadership. The Grass Valley Downtown Association left the position open for over a year, having just recently announced a new hire.

And now Julie Baker, executive director of The Center for the Arts has announced her good-bye after eight years at the helm. No one can argue the metamorphosis the Center underwent under her tutelage. It’s growth, success and the impact on the community as whole is beyond measure.

So, what is it about this position that seems to lend itself to frequent turnover? Each of the leaders gave their own answers to why they are moving on but I can’t help but wonder if there is an underlying theme. Working at the “pleasure” of a board of directors (or city council), constant need for fundraising and grants to stay afloat and a personality that does not turn off the job when they walk out the door, all take a toll.

Our community depends on each of the organizations mentioned in untold ways. They are all part of the fabric that makes our community attractive to those who live here. We would not be the same without any one of them. And they all require leaders who have vision, who can lead those who work for them and with them to move the mission of the organization forward and who can do so without sacrificing their own well-being in the process.

Who will step up and lead? There seem to be plenty willing to follow.

Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at holliesallwrite@gmail.com.


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