Benton Harbor Parks Conservancy ponders new position

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BENTON HARBOR — The Benton Harbor Parks and Recreation Conservancy did not choose its next president at its Tuesday meeting.

Instead, members discussed the option of hiring an executive director – something the nonprofit organization has never had.

Leading the discussion was John Egelhaaf from the conservancy’s executive committee. Egelhaaf led the board meeting because the conservancy has been without a president since June.

“Our president left on a medical condition, our vice president is unable to take on the role because of his job responsibilities at Lakeland (Health),” Egelhaaf said. “It’s become apparent to (the executive committee) that we need an executive director. There’s evidence that this model is burning out our presidents and that is not a situation we want to continue.”

There’s a lot of scenarios that could involve a less-than full-time director, Egelhaaf said. He said a director could help string together continuity in meetings, become a contact for people in the community and handle fundraising.

The conservancy works as a nonprofit organization that manages the 13 parks in Benton Harbor.

“I think the conservancy is potentially a wonderful instrument to the people of the city, “ Egelhaaf said. “But it has to be a series of collaborations.”

After beginning the nomination process Tuesday, the board kept it open for absent board members until the next meeting Jan. 17.

By the January meeting Egelhaaf said there should be a roster of nominees, where members can then vote. Since the conservancy was challenged in attendance so close to the holidays Tuesday, it made sense to not officially take a vote.

Jerry Edwards formerly nominated himself for the role of president and said he was in support of discussing whether to create the new position.

“I think we can find that balance between two people,” Edwards said, referencing the duties that would be divided between president and executive director.

The conservancy’s executive committee previously announced in June that Stephannnie Harvey-Vandenberg would be resigning as president. She cited personal reasons.

Walt Pullins, executive director of environment of care and hospitality services at Lakeland Health, was named interim president while the board began its search for a successor to Harvey-Vandenberg. Pullins was vice president.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Nov. 23, 2016)


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