The process of finding a new president for the Martinsville-based Harvest Foundation will take at least several months and involves input from partners and community leaders, a search committee member said.
Larry Ryder, former Harvest board member and chairman, said the process of finding Allyson Rothrock’s replacement started with hiring an executive search firm to help them look for qualified candidates. The committee interviewed four firms before hiring Korn Ferry.
The board hopes to announce a new president by June. Rothrock has said she plans to retire in mid- to late 2020.
Created in 2002 with the sale of the Martinsville-Henry County region’s nonprofit hospital, the foundation had net assets of $178 million in 2018 and awarded $22.3 million in grants targeting education and economic development efforts, according to its annual report.
After hiring the search firm, Harvest board leaders spent a lot of time with the principals of Korn Ferry and “talked to them about what we’re looking for, as well as recommending other people in the community that they should talk to directly” for input, Ryder said. These include area nonprofits, “key people in the city and county,” and economic development personnel, he said.
“I don’t know how we would do it without a national search firm,” Ryder said. “Korn Ferry has a huge database of qualified people from all walks of life, including foundations and nonprofits. They’ll come up with a matrix of the type of person we’re looking for and the type of skills they have, and they’ll cast that net out in their database.”
Although the search will be conducted nationwide, “of course we’re open to people in the community here,” he said. There are merits to bringing in an outside executive, someone “with a fresh pair of eyes,” as well as hiring a local person who already knows the community.
After receiving the initial applications, Korn Ferry will “pare down to what are the most qualified people,” he said. Eventually, the search committee hopes to end up with five to eight finalists and bring them in for interviews.
“Staff will have a chance to interview them as well,” Ryder said.
Although Ryder and his colleagues agreed Rothrock will be a hard act to follow, he said, “Hopefully we’ll uncover somebody out there that will be absolutely perfect for Martinsville-Henry County.”
Said current Harvest board chairman David Stone: “It’s never a comforting thing to have to replace someone like Allyson. It’s going to be a challenge and an interesting year ahead of us, but it’s also an opportunity to move Harvest to the next level and go places we never thought we could go.”
Past and present board members said one of Rothrock’s strengths is her ability to bring together groups from the community and to build partnerships.
Former Harvest board Chairman James McClain II said of the search, “I think one of the most important qualities for Ally’s successor is going to be someone who is a good listener. There are a lot of good ideas and good voices out there,” and a good leader will need to listen to all of them, not just those that are the “loudest,” he said.
“We definitely want a good communicator, someone with a vision that can connect and get to know the community like Ally has,” Stone said. This includes building “relationships with business owners, churches, different parts of the community, and the nonprofits we have here.”
Ultimately, Stone said, “Our board has said for a number of years that we want Harvest to be here in perpetuity. We want it to be here when your grandkids are around. We invest with that in mind. It’s a long-term strategy that we hope will be reaping benefits and planting seeds here long after I’m gone, for years and years to come.”
Kim Barto Meeks is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. She can be reached at 276-638-8801.