Forming a nonprofit board is serious work and no different than forming any team. Once you commit to your team, there’s no turning back. The board members at the Wilderness Center are a team of extraordinary individuals with exceptional and diverse talents. They are Jerry Stenger, Kimball Knutson, Peter Wahlstrom, Julie Ristau, Melanie Waite-Altringer and Craig Tarr.
Whether assembling an expedition team or a board of directors, my process occurs in two stages. First, the initial founding members are friends I trust and have worked with closely over time. We know each other well and what to expect so there are no surprises.
I’ve never been all-knowing, so I rely on others to advise me. In forming the Center’s initial board, I turned to Jerry and Kim first. Both were on my founding board for Climate Generation. They’re like the keel of my ship. Sometimes I have a tendency to take a few risks. As close advisors, they help me keep my keel in the water.
I’ve had a 10-year working relationship with Peter. From the beginning, he has been completely committed to the Center’s vision. He is always there for me and I draw a lot of strength from him. He’s a special advisor.
Board chair Julie Ristau came to the Center through Kim. I couldn’t believe my good fortune in meeting someone of Julie’s caliber. Furthermore, she was interested in being on the board. I’ve only met one other person with her top-level organizational and leadership skills. Early on at the Center, she served as a consultant in forming the nonprofit and tended to the detail work. She has an incredible gift as an advisor. She’s like my other half.
With the initial board members in place and a clear vision established, we begin the second stage. We seek people who have areas of expertise and compatible personalities that align themselves with the Center’s mission.
Craig is a brilliant engineer. That’s a complete relief to me because I’m not; the heating and electrical systems had become a burden. Now, he coordinates all energy systems at the Center. I also learn a lot from his ability to organize and chart out a complex situation.
Melanie is a strong educator, a real doer and on the pulse of sustainable energy education. She’s also well connected with important players in the energy industry. Those two assets are priceless for a new board and organization.
The board’s dedication to the Center, its mission and enhancing the environment are stellar strengths of the Wilderness Center. Here’s an opportunity to know the board as individuals. Jerry, Kim and Peter appear in this issue, with Julie, Melanie and Craig in “Part 2” to follow in a couple of weeks.