Center says goodbye to Kristen Lessig

Center Lessig board
At her last meeting as executive director, Center board members say goodbye to Kristen Lessig. – Kristin Swain | Sun

ANNA MARIA – Feb. 19 marked former Center Executive Director Kristen Lessig’s official last day on the job, but she didn’t leave the organization without a plan for the future.

During her final board meeting at the Center, Lessig gave board members an update on ongoing projects as well as an update on the search for her replacement. While a permanent executive director candidate had yet to be identified, Lessig and board member John Mann said they had both spoken with a candidate to fill the position part-time for the short-term.

Peg Beck, of Creative Consulting Associates, who’s heading up the search for a new executive director, said three months should be the perfect amount of time to find and install someone in the roll. The human resources specialist said she’s conducting a local search for candidates to encourage someone to move into the role quickly and narrow the pool of prospective replacements for Lessig. Interviews for the position could begin as early as the week of March 19.

Once Beck works through the first round of interviews, the search committee will interview the finalists in person. The search committee members are Mann, Karen Harllee, Barbara Soto, Steve Johnson, Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie and Center board chair David Zaccagnino.

In the meantime, the interim director will serve as a liaison between the board members and Center staff, though decisions and policy will primarily be left in the hands of the board.

Lessig will return to the Center as a volunteer for this year’s Tour of Homes March 17.

Throughout the meeting, board members expressed their support for Lessig in her new endeavor and thanked her for her work over the past three years. For her part, Lessig said there are some things she’ll miss about being at the Center every day.

“It’s a great place and a great resource for the Island,” she said of the Center. “It truly is a community in here. I love seeing the same faces come in. I especially love when the snowbirds return. I love the people that work here and have served on the board. They all put themselves out there for the betterment of the community. I’ll miss seeing everyone on a daily basis.”

Lessig did say one of the things she’s looking forward to is coming to the Center as a member with her daughter and being able to enjoy the facility “from the other side.”

Members of the Center also are sad to see Lessig go, but they’re hopeful for the future of the organization.

“She’s just been a godsend to us on the Island,” member Janet Kingan said of Lessig. “I watched her turn this place around. I hope everyone continues to support the Center and we get a great new executive director. We have something special here.”

Mary Zion agreed with Kingan. “The Center needs a lot of support, and I hope they get it,” she said, adding that she hopes new staff and new board members coming into the organization are “passionate about the Center.”

Member Liz Hager said she hopes that the community maintains its newly positive attitude toward the Center long after Lessig is gone.

“I hope that when Kristen takes this very positive move for her that the support remains,” she said.

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