A Message from the CEO: Leaving the Job I Love

A nonprofit CEO’s job is all-consuming.  It’s one of those jobs you can’t fully comprehend until you’ve done it.  And it never “settles down,” but instead just keeps growing and evolving to respond to the changing world and meet the emerging needs of our community and those we serve.  The job is engaging, exciting, stimulating, risky, and there’s never a dull moment. The job demands all the time, effort, and energy you’ve got, and then some.  In short, it’s an amazing adventure!  At least, that’s been my experience for the 37 years of my nonprofit management career.

I have been with The Georgetown Project for 24 of its 27 years.  I served as Program Director for the first 10 years and as the Chief Executive Officer for the past 14 years.  The Georgetown Project has a deep and impactful mission, an important history as a leader and catalyst for youth development in the community, and a vision that inspires me as much today as it did all those years ago.  I have had the honor and pleasure of working with hundreds of extraordinary board members, staff members, volunteers, community partners, donors, mentors, and others who have supported us in serving over 67,000 amazing young people and their families.  It’s been an absolute labor of love.  I am so grateful to do this work with people who are courageous, love this community, and always stay focused on what is best for kids.

Even on the tough days, when a load of fresh challenges is delivered, I have felt the thrill of being in the right place at the right time to do that most fundamental thing that makes life fulfilling… just make myself useful and live with passion and purpose.  This place and the people involved mean the world to me, and the young people we work with fill my heart every day.

Still, about a year and a half ago, I found myself beginning to think about what it would look like and feel like to leave this job and the organization that I love.  The reasons were compound.  Sure, there were those yearnings to get back to personal pursuits I had set aside for years.  But I began to experience some nudges (Godwinks if you will) that seemed to push me toward change.

My husband and I have raised two sons here in Georgetown, and after college and baseball careers, they settled—and now work together—in San Angelo, Texas.  Then they both married wonderful West Texas girls who are from the same small town near San Angelo.  And we have two little grandsons in San Angelo now, ages 3 and 1, who light up our lives.  (Godwinks #1, #2 and #3)

Additionally, there are needs emerging in my family that I know will demand more of my attention.  My Dad is turning 90 in a couple of weeks and Mom is 83.  They live in my hometown of Coleman, which is very near San Angelo. (Godwink #4) After supporting my Mom through breast cancer during Covid, I realized these are precious years with my parents and I want to be present for them.   I began to think about how quickly life goes by and how time with those we love is a precious gift.

We joke in our family that The Georgetown Project is my third child.  From day one my husband and our boys have warmly embraced my passion for The Georgetown Project and the kids we serve.  My husband, like most spouses of nonprofit folks, has been a defacto part of the team (or should I say on-call handyman).  Our boys grew up participating in youth service days, youth summits, our youth action council, and other activities of The Georgetown Project.  Now, as adults (ages 36 and 26) they are donors here at TGP and are actively involved in supporting youth organizations in San Angelo.   It has been a meaningful journey not just for me, but for my family.

Those of you who have been involved with The Georgetown Project know that Developmental Assets and Developmental Relationships are the foundation for all we do.  A key theme in both frameworks is linkages between positive intergenerational relationships and youth thriving.  I grew up in a small town with many adults in addition to my parents who cared about me.  My parents and my husband’s parents have been active in our boys’ lives.  My grandparents were very special to me, and they lived long lives, so our sons have incredible memories of their time with great-grandparents as well as their grandparents.  Through our programs here at TGP, I have seen how a few caring adults can make a transformational difference in the life of a child.  The principles that guide The Georgetown Project captured my heart 24 years ago and inspire me exponentially today.

During late 2022, I informed the Board of Directors and Staff that I would be beginning succession planning for my transition out of the CEO role. Then began the strategic, loving, and bittersweet process of laying track for change. We began defining clear intentions and systems to support the transition, including setting the bar for the next CEO.  For the past 16 months, every structural improvement, cultural nuance, leadership retreat, board meeting, strategic planning session, and budget projection has been informed by the coming change.  I am getting the extra fulfillment of being able to initiate several exciting innovations and reach a few personal milestones during my final months at TGP.  It’s been a demanding, dynamic, joyful, and productive time, and I am grateful to and very proud of everyone involved.

We posted the CEO position in December, and the search has been in full swing since. The TGP Board Succession Planning Committee worked with Ray Langlois at Everyone Thrives Consulting to put a thoughtful search and hiring process in place, and I have been involved at strategic junctures and will continue to be supportive after the transition.

We received 60 applicants, with a broad range of nonprofit, public education, and for-profit management experience.  The field was narrowed to four and then to the final candidate.  The Board made an official hiring offer last week and it was accepted.  I cannot tell you how excited I am to pass the torch to this person and how proud I am of our Board for selecting a leader who has been a community partner with The Georgetown Project for over 20 years and who will bring valuable and complementary perspective to our work. (Godwink #5)

I believe I was the right person during a critical and dynamic time of growth and change for The Georgetown Project, but there are new needs emerging for the organization’s future that will require fresh vision, energy, and skills.  It is the perfect time for new leadership to move our organization forward into its next 27 years!

I will be around for a while, so there will be plenty of time for reflection and celebration over the next few months.  Please be sure and stay tuned for an update in the next week announcing the next CEO of The Georgetown Project!

-Leslie Janca, CEO