Until We Meet Again
The farewell blog post is a Valley Vision tradition – and a daunting one, now that I’m faced with it myself. My work with Valley Vision, which ends on Friday, includes the last six-and-a-half years as a consultant and employee as well as the decade prior to that (back to about 2004) working as a partner with Valley Vision while at UC Davis and SARTA — spanning, altogether, more than fifteen of the organization’s twenty-five-plus years. How to bid all that work, and all the friends and colleagues I’ve made, farewell in a short blog?
Perhaps by noting that it’s about the work. When we’re fortunate in the work we do, it becomes the embodiment of mission and purpose, and gives meaning to our days – which is what drives us all, at both the individual and the organizational levels, whether in for-profit, not-for-profit, or public service. It’s important to be true to the work. In my two decades here, I’ve done work that’s focused on supporting tech startup companies and the vital contributions of the innovation economy to any region’s economic health and resilience, and I’ve also done work focused on bringing a range of perspectives together around the tough, contentious challenges facing our region. I have been so fortunate to find meaning, purpose, challenge, and reward in all of that work.
And by adding that of course it’s also about the people. The work is only possible because people do it. People show up every day, working mostly together and sometimes at cross purposes; mostly with decent communication and sometimes without; hopefully (but not always) from a basis of trust and with the understanding that everyone is trying to do the best she or he can. And through all that, we understand each other, build friendships, and have fun with each other while also occasionally becoming frustrated by each other. The two decades I’ve been in the Capital Region are the longest I’ve lived anywhere, and all the lines in my life have blurred: my work colleagues have become personal friends; my parent friends have become work friends, my “Davis” friends have become “Capital region” friends, and more. As an introvert and someone who entered working life with bright lines between “work” and “personal,” the blurring of those boundaries has sometimes felt awkward, and has without exception been rewarding.
It’s also about the partnerships. In my experience, when people build partnerships in order to get the work done, the work gets done better. Within a single organization or between several, the ability to find common ground, build a shared agenda, understand what you can each contribute to reaching the goal, and then work together from a basis of trust to do that, while keeping a lid on politics, competition and divisiveness — that’s the sweet spot. That’s the spot I’ve been fortunate to find so often in my work here, whether with Valley Vision, in my own consulting, at SARTA, or at UC Davis. It’s the sweet spot I look forward to continuing to find in what’s ahead.
These are some of the things I’ll take with me when I go, and for which I’m grateful to all my colleagues and friends over all of these years.
So, where am I going, anyway? Thanks to luck, timing, and the ability to leverage so much of what I’ve done and learned in the Capital Region in these years, I’m moving on to become the Senior Vice President of Market Transformation at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI). I’ll help to advance and accelerate the development and deployment of clean technologies of all types, with an emphasis on transportation, energy, and sustainable cities. This new role is exciting because it’s a chance to “live my values” and focus my professional energies on the climate crisis as I’ve hoped to do. It’s also exciting because it joins my prior work with startups and innovation in my SARTA and UC Davis years with my recent work with multi-sector partnerships and policy levers in my Valley Vision years.
So in the end, even though my new work won’t be in this region, I’m only able to do it because of this region. And Valley Vision — its mission, team, Board, regional partners — is where so much of the work, people, and partnerships of these two decades has been centered. To all my Valley Vision colleagues and partners over the years, thank you for so many opportunities, and for all your efforts, wisdom, and friendship.
Meg Arnold has served in several roles during her years at Valley Vision – most recently as Strategic Advisor. She can be reached at email@example.com.
At the beginning of this month, I moved into the role of Interim CEO for Valley Vision, as the inestimable Bill Mueller moved on. It’s an honor and a pleasure to serve in this capacity for the period of time until the next permanent CEO of the organization is identified by our Board of Directors – and it’s also been a relatively easy transition, for four important reasons.
Most significantly, because of the Valley Vision team, all of whom show up every day with focus, energy, integrity, compassion, and great teamwork, delivering on our purpose of helping our communities become the most livable in the nation.
Equally importantly, because of the support and confidence of the regional leaders on the Valley Vision Board, who represent both themselves and the organizations that they lead, and provide guidance, strategic direction, and oversight to our work.
Also, because I’m fortunate that Valley Vision is so familiar to me. I’ve worked with, or around, or for Valley Vision since 2005, beginning back in my days at the UC Davis Office of Research, to my first consulting stint here in 2009 managing Valley Vision’s Green Capital Alliance work, through my tenure as CEO at SARTA as a co-lead on the Next Economy project, and finally to my last five years as a consultant here primarily focused on our Clean Economy work.
And, of course, because Bill was just as thoughtful and thorough as you’d expect him to be, in the way that he managed his transition out after twelve years of leadership and fifteen years overall at Valley Vision. He prepared the ground well, and I’m benefiting from his advance work.
In closing, I want to share the best advice I’ve received from the Board thus far, which was “don’t act like an interim.” That seems an important commitment to make out loud: I will not act like an interim for the time that I’m here. You’ll see Valley Vision continue in all that we do – focusing on livable, inclusive, and resilient communities, engaging with our many partners across the region, and moving ahead with our entire range of work – so that my own hand-off to the new Valley Vision CEO will be as well-executed as was Bill’s hand-off to me.
Meg Arnold is Interim CEO of Valley Vision.