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New Beginnings

By Evan Schmidt

I’m very excited to be writing to you today as Valley Vision’s new CEO. After six years at Valley Vision, most recently as the Director of Research and Strategy, I’m well acquainted with and fully committed to Valley Vision’s triple bottom line values of economic prosperity, social equity, and environmental sustainability to create livable communities. I’m also very aware that I’m coming into this leadership position at a difficult time in our history. As I begin my tenure as CEO, here is what I believe Valley Vision will need to focus on for the next three months and beyond, as we continue to navigate turmoil and challenges to our communities, economy, and well-being.

  1. Work from our strengths to be of service: Valley Vision is a servant leadership organization – we act as a regional steward to be of service to the people and places of our region. We are at our best when we are driving and catalyzing collaboration, advancing cutting edge applied research, and inspiring communities and leadership. With this in mind, we’ve prioritized a specific set of collaborative work to address challenges of the moment: creating an inclusive economy to support the region, creating pathways to future jobs, advancing digital inclusion for all, and increasing broadband access. The problems we face are complex and broad – Valley Vision will do best to focus our actions where we can be effective and valuable using our strengths to solve pressing issues.
  2. Do the next right thing: In this time of deep uncertainty, we act from our values and integrity and put one foot in front of the other to do the next right thing, even when it is hard or the big picture is unclear. In early Spring, that meant retreating to our homes to work and aiding in emergency response as we could. This summer, that has meant reflecting on how we can more deeply focus on racial justice, including participating in in-depth racial equity training during the month of July and developing concrete plans for ensuring that racial equity is central to our mission and apparent in the ways we recruit  and empower diverse staff and the ways we advance our work. In the face of shifting conditions and difficulty, it is important to keep moving forward and meet each new challenge with compassion and humanity. 
  3. Take the opportunity to reimagine: Change is knocking on our door, are we going to listen? COVID-19 has illuminated weaknesses in our systems. Let’s not rush to restore as we move forward in recovery – rather, let’s reimagine a better, more equitable future that reflects the world we need now, not the legacy of the past. The pain that has brought about a more widespread awareness of social injustice can pave the way for needed systemic changes to create a more just society. The pivot towards remote education can pave the way to more accessible and tailored educational systems that meet the needs of more students. The sudden grounding to home can create a path to more telework opportunities in the long term, reducing pollution and climate change impacts. These opportunities to change are here, it is up to us to seize them.

The job ahead won’t be easy and the conditions are as complex and difficult as I’ve seen in my lifetime. Since the announcement of my new position as CEO, I have been grateful for the expressions of support of many leaders and community members in our region. I know that I will continue to rely on that support, just as people in this region can rely on me. Grappling with the challenges that we face in the region will require that we do this together, working to reimagine and create a future that is better than our past.

Evan Schmidt is Valley Vision’s Chief Executive Officer.

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