My First Month As Executive Director

Written by John Searby, Executive Director

The past month has been one of the most interesting of my adult life as I have assumed the leadership seat of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation. I’ve had many people ask me if it was what I expected and my consistent answer has been that in many ways it has been exactly what I expected and there have also been a few surprises. What I can confidently say is that the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation is a fantastic group of people doing very important work on behalf of the more than 2 million people that live in the Catawba-Wateree River Basin. Here’s a few of my first month’s observations:

We are ALL impacted by the work of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation. By far, the thing that surprises people most when I talk about CRF is the fact that everyone’s drinking water comes from the Catawba River basin if you are on municipal water in Charlotte and surrounding counties. Because of this fact, we are all impacted. Certainly folks who live, work, and recreate on our rivers and lakes have an even more vested interest in the work we do, but everyone who enjoys clean and plentiful water should be interested in our efforts to ensure clean and plentiful water.

There is always “something” to do at Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation. Between meeting with corporate partners and individual donors, discussing specific environmental concerns with our Riverkeeper, Brandon Jones, and our sister organizations around the state and region, and forging new partnerships with businesses and other groups who have a shared vision for clean water and a better environment, there is always work to do. Our staff has events almost every night of the week and every day on the weekend and we still don’t attend all of the opportunities that we feel are important. I can’t say enough thank yous to our board and volunteers who give of their time on behalf of the organization; without them we could not do half of what we do.

Running a non-profit and running a for profit are not as different as many may think. The biggest difference is that instead of investors, shareholders, or ownership profitability, we are measured by impact towards our mission. The structures of sound businesses, the importance of engaging with stakeholders, and the passionate leadership required to run a successful organization don’t change if you are focused on making a profit or making an impact.

My first month on the job has certainly been a learning experience and the next few months will continue to be a daily classroom. Through it all, my focus, and my message to our staff has been simple: work hard every day to protect and preserve the waters of the Catawba River basin. If everything we do comes back to educating our community about the water, advocating on behalf of the water, and protecting the water for future generations then we are doing our jobs. If the water is important to you and you want to be more involved, connect with us to become a member, donate to support our efforts, or volunteer your time to help. Thank you to all who have made me feel welcome! I look forward to growing the CRF family.

Searby Family at Clear Creek Reservoir in South Mountains State Park near Morganton, NC.

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