I am writing today to let you know a new chapter is about to begin at 1000 Friends of Oregon. After nearly 40 years leading nonprofit environmental and conservation efforts, including the last four years at the helm of 1000 Friends of Oregon, our Executive Director Russ Hoeflich will be retiring July 1st, 2021 after taking some much-deserved summer vacation time.
Russ’ retirement is intentionally timed to coincide with another exciting moment in the history of 1000 Friends: our transition toward our next 50 years, bolstered by the launch of our new 4-Year Strategic Plan. In fact, one of the five main goals of our Strategic Plan states that “1000 Friends has the human, infrastructural, and financial resources it requires to advance its mission and achieve its vision.”
In Russ’ own words: “By passing the baton to the next generation of leadership, it is my hope that the future executive director can steer 1000 Friends toward the goal of accomplishing everything laid out in our strategic plan. The possibilities for the future of the organization and the continued impact it will have on Oregon are endless. Our next leader will be set up for success thanks to the first-rate staff, board, and statewide membership of 1000 Friends.”
Both Russ and the board feel that this is an optimal moment to give 1000 Friends and its future Executive Director the chance to take full advantage of the many opportunities embodied by the new plan and the numerous achievements of recent years. During his tenure, Russ has been the driving force behind a period of unprecedented growth for 1000 Friends of Oregon, resulting in an exceptional series of accomplishments.
With Russ, we have:
- Transformed 1000 Friends of Oregon into an even more powerful force for land use advocacy both in Oregon and nationally by developing an expanded and deeply committed Board of Directors; investing in highly-qualified staff; and centering diversity, equity, and inclusion as a key component of our work.
- Engaged a diverse cohort of board, staff, and Oregonians in formulating our new 4-Year Strategic Plan, taking us through the 50th anniversary of Oregon’s land use planning program in 2023 and the 50th anniversary of 1000 Friends of Oregon in 2024.
- Cultivated flourishing coalitions and partnerships to increase our understanding of and success in building more equitable and livable communities and protecting working lands.
- Staffed our Farmer Advisory Committee and Affiliate network to fully serve Oregon’s farmers, foresters, and ranchers.
- Brought our program work and communications into alignment with the powerful opportunities to address climate change through Oregon’s land use planning program.
- Established 1000 Friends of Oregon’s Land Use Legal Defense Fund, now well on its way to its $10 million goal, to ensure the protection of Oregon’s land use laws against all threats, great and small.
- Fought for fully-funded statewide wildfire protections. Russ serves as a member of the Governor’s Council on Wildfire Response and as chair of its Land Use Subcommittee. That council’s recommendations are currently being considered as a suite of bills at the Oregon State Legislature.
- Crafted, supported, and testified on dozens of pieces of local and statewide land use legislation, including transformational bills like HB 2001, which gives Oregon the most progressive housing policy in the nation and earned 1000 Friends an Ivory Prize for Innovation in Housing Affordability.
- Strengthened the financial position of 1000 Friends of Oregon by building our endowments, fiscal partnerships, and overall combined assets, ensuring a bright future for our organization as well as for Oregon itself.
- Deepened philanthropic support for 1000 Friends of Oregon with the launch of our first-ever Business Membership program, the establishment of new foundation partnerships, the procurement of transformational gifts from numerous individual donors, and investments in staffing and stewardship for our many members.
- Introduced significant improvements to our operating and reporting standards and procedures, leading to top-tier rankings from Guidestar, Charity Navigator, and BBB Wise Giving,
- Stewarded 1000 Friends of Oregon through the immense challenges of successfully running and funding a nonprofit organization during COVID.
Russ’s leadership has been essential in seeing us through these years of change, and his efforts will continue to influence our progress for years to come. To ensure a smooth transition, 1000 Friends’ Director of Operations, Lily Burnett, will step in as Interim Executive Director during the search process.
In choosing this summer to retire, Russ joins his wife Bonnie, who recently wrapped up her own 20-year career as an oncology nurse practitioner at OHSU. Even in retirement, Russ plans to remain active in Oregon’s conservation community and is already considering the host of board, foundation, and commission opportunities that await. A celebration of Russ’ full career will be held later this year. In the meantime, please join us today in beginning to thank Russ for his dedication to 1000 Friends of Oregon, and to Oregon.
As for the transition itself, the search for our next executive will begin in the coming weeks. 1000 Friends of Oregon's Board of Directors is working in partnership with Motus Recruiting to conduct the process from start to finish. It is our highest priority to find a leader who shares Russ’ dynamism and passion, and who will be truly committed to 1000 Friends of Oregon's unique and urgent mission: “Working with Oregonians to enhance quality of life by building livable urban and rural communities, protecting family farms and forests, and conserving natural areas.”
The official job description is linked below, we invite you to help us in identifying candidates who will fully embrace and advance us toward this goal. You are always welcome to reach out to me at any time if you have additional thoughts or questions.
As President of the Board, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your support, and to emphasize that, while leadership transitions always require finesse, this change comes at an opportune time for 1000 Friends. We have a brand-new strategic plan to guide us through the next four years, we are on solid financial ground, and I am confident in the abilities of our staff and my fellow board members. We will miss Russ dearly, and we are thankful for all of the positive changes he has brought us over the past four years.
At the same time, we are genuinely excited to see what the future holds, and to have your continued support as, together, we turn the page to this new chapter for 1000 Friends of Oregon.
With optimism and gratitude,
Eloise Grout Koehler | President, 1000 Friends of Oregon Board of Directors