United Way of Northwest Vermont announced today that its Board of Directors has appointed Jesse Bridges as Chief Executive Officer effective May 30, 2017. Bridges is currently Director of the City of Burlington Parks Recreation & Waterfront Department. Bridges replaces Martha Maksym and interim Director, Molly Lambert, at the helm of the regional nonprofit whose mission is “to build a stronger Northwest Vermont by mobilizing our community to improve people’s lives.”
Bridges’ strengths as an executive manager and collaborator are widely recognized in the community, and he brings to his new role many deep connections with partner organizations of United Way. “This is the perfect time for us to welcome a new Chief Executive Officer. United Way of Northwest Vermont was formed in 2016 when the former Chittenden County and Franklin-Grand Isle United Ways merged. Even though United Way has been an integral part of these communities for decades, the newly united regional organization introduces fresh opportunities for greater collaboration and welcomes new thinking,” said Tammy Johnson, President of the Board of Directors and chair of the United Way Executive Search Committee. She continued, “he brings to this position such positive energy and passion for the community, strong views about cultivating greater understanding of our work in the northwest Vermont region and innovative ideas for new fundraising models.”
Many in the nonprofit community are praising Bridges’ skills in building effective partnerships. According to Judy Peterson, President and Executive Director of the Visiting Nurse Association, “Jesse has been a wonderful partner to the VNA for many years in his role as Director of Burlington Parks and Recreation. Most recently, we’ve benefitted from his strategic thinking and collaborative approach to problem solving as a member of the transition team tasked with securing the VNA Family Room’s future as a standalone non-profit.” She added, “Jesse understands this essential community program, along with so many others as evidenced by the role he played in helping to remake the former St. Joseph’s School site into a dynamic hub for community programs and services. “ Jesse is the epitome of a collaborative leader. We have so appreciated his optimism and can-do spirit,” said Mary Alice McKenzie, Director of the Boys & Girls Club of Burlington. “It will be a pleasure to continue working with Jesse in his new role as CEO of the United Way."
“Jesse has been a great partner to Champlain Housing Trust, housing affordability and serving the needs of lower income people. He has been an excellent collaborator and advocate for parks and open space during our discussions of the redevelopment of Burlington College, now Cambrian Rise.” said Michael Monte of Champlain Housing Trust. “We are pleased that we have the opportunity to work with him in his new role as Chief Executive Officer for the United Way.” In early 2017, United Way completed a volunteer-driven prioritization process wherein it engaged more than 800 community partners, donors, volunteers, and other stakeholders across Chittenden, Franklin and Grand Isle Counties to assess needs and opportunities to determine how United Way can have the greatest impact in our region. The new strategic priorities, which were unanimously approved by the organization’s volunteer Board of Directors in March 2017, include five key strategies in which United Way of Northwest Vermont will invest funds, staff-time and expertise in the years ahead:
● Reducing Substance Abuse
● Promoting Mental Health
● Meeting Basic Needs: defined as Housing, Food Security, Transportation, & Health Care
● Advancing Employment
● Supporting Families
The new priorities also include four fundamental areas of work that will strengthen United Way’s investment across the key strategies: Fostering Inclusion, Ensuring Equitable Access, Building Community, and Growing Systems & Nonprofit Excellence.
“Jesse’s skills are directly relevant to our mission, new priorities and the future challenges of the community and the organization. We look forward to the success our community will experience with Jesse’s commitment and passion to build a stronger region,” said Tammy Johnson, President of the Board of Directors and chair of the United Way Executive Search Committee.
Until he begins his new role on May 30, Bridges will continue serving as Director of Parks Recreation & Waterfront Department. “Jesse’s tenure as the Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Director will be remembered as a time of innovation, collaboration, and progress on social issues,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “He led an historic expansion of the parks system and landmark renewal of the Bike Path, sharpened the Department’s focus on equity, and generated new revenues that have lessened the Department’s reliance on the City’s general fund. While we will greatly miss his energy and passion, it is exciting for the administration to see one of our Department Heads hired to lead a critical community partner organization. I look forward to an even stronger relationship with the United Way of Northwest Vermont as together we tackle the opioid challenge, homelessness, early learning and other major social challenges.”
Prior to his role with the City of Burlington, Bridges spent 10 years working for the University of Vermont, where he was promoted from Assistant Athletics Director of the University of Vermont to the Associate Director of Major Gifts for University of Vermont Foundation and Director of the UVM Victory Club. There, he was responsible for increasing departmental fundraising for UVM Athletics, management of donors and major gift prospects, and oversight of Victory Club and Ticket Operations.
"I am extremely grateful to the board of the United Way for this opportunity,” said Bridges. “We are primed through strategic priorities, exceptional staff, community volunteers and partners to address the largest issues affecting our
community today. Together we will rise to the challenge of making sure we develop human and financial resources to help grow our partners & support systems. With a focus on inclusion and equity we will create lasting community and social impact throughout the region."
United Way of Northwest Vermont also welcomes three new residents of Franklin and Grand Isle Counties to join its Board of Directors – Melissa Hersh, Champlain College (Franklin County), Joel Poquette, Poquette Realty (Grand Isle County), and Sandy Mayotte, AN Deringer (Franklin County). Current Franklin and Grand Isle County residents serving on the Board include:
● Sally Bortz, US Citizenship and Immigration Service;
● Margaret Bozik, Champlain Housing Trust;
● David Cain, Global Foundries;
● Marty Fletcher, Mylan Technologies, Inc.;
● Becky Manahan, St Albans Free Library;
● Tina Mueller, Superior Technical Ceramics;
● Sally Sargent, Community Volunteer.