On Sunday, August 14, the Fresno Bee announced our big news, the hiring of Mayor Ashley Swearengin as the next CEO of CVCF, effective January 16, 2017. The decision was unanimous. Fifteen board members—nine men, six women, some from business, some from government, some from large organizations, some from small, some from agriculture, some from urban centers—all voted in support of offering the position to Mayor Swearengin.
The decision to hire Swearengin has been well received by philanthropic leaders. “We at The James Irvine Foundation view CVCF as an important partner in the effort to expand economic and political opportunity for young adults and families in the Central Valley. We look forward to the unique leadership that Mayor Swearengin will bring as the next CEO,” said Don Howard, President and CEO of the Irvine Foundation.
I have known Ashley for about 20 years so my vote was easy. I have watched her lead a number of organizations from the Fresno Business Incubator in the 90s to the City of Fresno today, always with excellence, competence, care, compassion, strength, energy and humor. She is a remarkable leader, the kind that attracts talent, builds teamwork and produces results.
Among a number of critical board goals, Ashley will be charged with delivering a stable business model. Community Foundations of our size do not earn enough in fees to cover their overhead. They essentially have two choices: hunker down or set a bold vision. They can cut costs, recruit volunteers and provide what minimal services the budget permits, or they can recruit strong leadership, raise capital, invest in the vision, work hard and grow the asset base to the $150 million or so that produces fee income to match critical expenses. The CVCF board has chosen the latter course. It offers great possibilities because the returns to the community are superb for the dollar invested. We will begin telling that story in the fall, explaining to the community why CVCF is investment worthy, demonstrating the benefits of a strong community foundation and making the case for our strategic plan.
The board has a vision and now we have a CEO to implement it. We have already begun but the pace will change on January 16, 2017.