Lessig resigns from Center leadership

Center of Anna Maria Island
Things are looking up financially for The Center of Anna Maria Island. - File Photo | Sun

ANNA MARIA – The Center of Anna Maria Island’s board of directors is beginning the search for a new executive director after the resignation of Kristen Lessig.

Lessig, who has served as executive director of the nonprofit since December 2014, said she would be leaving Feb. 19 to pursue an opportunity as executive director of youth development, a newly created position with the Sarasota YMCA. She said working with the YMCA has long been a dream of hers and the position “was too good to pass up.” Though she is leaving the Center, Lessig feels that she’s leaving it on a high note, in a good position, and in good hands with the current staff and board.

“It really has been a team effort,” she said. “I’m extremely happy for where we are. I really think we’re set for great things.”

Kristen Lessig

“The Y cast a big net nationally and had more than 200 resumes submitted for the executive director position,” Sarasota YMCA Vice President Keith Quick said in a Feb. 2 press release. “After phone interviews and personal interviews, it was very clear that the perfect leader was actually right down the road on Anna Maria Island. We are so thankful and feel extremely fortunate to have Kristen Lessig as our new executive director of youth development for the Sarasota Y.”

“We’re sad to see her go but happy for her,” board chair David Zaccagnino said of Lessig. “She stuck it out for us.”

“What’s been done here is just phenomenal,” retiring board treasurer Jim Froeschle said. “Now it’s up to this board to make it last.”

“Thank you for everything you’ve done,” Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie said to Lessig. “The whole Island is going to miss you. You’ve done an amazing job and it’s not easy to do what you’ve done. It’s a big job and I thank you for that.”

Though Lessig is leaving her position at the Center, she said she isn’t moving and will continue to remain a part of the nonprofit through volunteerism, including serving as a committee member for this year’s Tour of Homes.

While no candidate has yet been identified to take Lessig’s place at the Center, the soon-to-be former executive director isn’t leaving the nonprofit without some guidance for the future.

As part of a departure timeline accepted by board members, Lessig suggested that a search committee be created to work with an outside human resources consultant to identify and interview potential candidates. She also recommended the hiring of former grant consultant Heather Darling as the Center’s new development and marketing director.

Lessig plans to formally hand over her responsibilities during a Feb. 19 board meeting to either a new or interim executive director.

Froeschle said he hopes the community will rally around whoever succeeds Lessig, offering support as the new person comes onboard with the Center.

“We will miss Kristen and wish her well in her new endeavor,” former board member Mike Thrasher said in a Feb. 2 press release. “Kristen has always put herself last, as she is all about other people and the community first. She has indeed made the Center great again.”

Kristen Lessig letter to community

Dear Center Community,

It is a bittersweet feeling that I write to you all to let you know from me, personally, that I have accepted a position as executive director of youth development for the Sarasota YMCA. Though I am extremely excited to have been offered this amazing opportunity to grown in my professional career, I know it would not have been possible to accept it without all that I have learned over the past three years serving the Anna Maria Island community in my role as managing director and then as the Center’s executive director.

I vividly recall relocating to the island and my first experiences in enrolling my daughter, Madeline, into summer camp prior to beginning kindergarten at our precious Anna Maria Elementary School. I quickly saw that the Center would play a major role in our lives. I was very eager to put my nonprofit experience to work upon hearing about the Center’s financial struggles, initially just as a volunteer working with special events.

Volunteering quickly lead to being fortunate enough to join the team. I honestly had no idea what lay ahead, but do not regret my experience at all. Everything that has transpired during the past three years has helped me to grow both personally and professionally. I know where the Center stood upon my arrival, and I am so very proud of where it is today.

I cannot overstate enough that the Center’s success and improvements would not have been impossible without the enormous support, collaboration and teamwork from the Center’s dedicated staff and current and former members of the board. (These true supporters know who you are:) The staff specifically has been equally as passionate about, and committed to the Center of Anna Maria Island as I have been, and continue to be passionate and committed. I hope that they will each continue to grow in their roles through continued support from their community. They work hard to serve you and I can attest that a little smile or thank you goes a long way! I am grateful and lucky to have worked with such a dedicated and talented team.

I am thrilled to be able to take on an exciting, new opportunity with the Sarasota YMCA, while continuing to be a part of this special community as a member.

My transition began a few weeks ago when I met with each individual staff and board member, followed by public notification at last week’s board meeting. I will be working very closely with them throughout the next few weeks of this transition. At that meeting, the board accepted my resignation and a detailed plan for the transition period and beyond.

Next steps include forming a search committee to fill the executive director position, which will include key members of the community, and hiring an HR professional to lead the process. In addition, after strong recommendations, the Center will explore utilizing resources within Manatee Community Foundation for the placement of an interim Executive Director and whatever additional assistance can be provided to ensure the Center’s staff remains supported while the best candidate is selected for the organization in its current stage its life cycle.

I will look forward to celebrating this next new chapter for the Center at our Murder Mystery event, Feb. 16 and 17. This is truly an exciting time for the Center, having finally turned the corner thanks to the everyone coming together and stepping up to support our community’s gathering place – a true jewel on this island!


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