by Jerelyn Wilson
This past December I was thrilled to be randomly chosen as one of two Co-op shareholders to join the General Manager Search Committee. Having been a member of the Co-op for more than 30 years, with Alex Gyori at the helm for most of that time, I recognize just how important this decision is for us all. With the transition from Alex’s leadership, we will enter new territory. Our future general manager will bring new perspectives and new energy into the organization—and finding the right person for that role is not a trivial undertaking.
The Co-op board recognized how important it is to have a fully transparent and open process in selecting that new leader, and they were fully aware that it would be a lot of work! For these reasons, the seven-member committee of the board was expanded to include two members of management—Phil Brodeur and Alex Gyori—as well as two staff members and two shareholders, selected randomly from those shareholders and staff who expressed interest in participating. Picked out of a hat by an unsuspecting deli customer were shareholders myself and Janet Wallstein, and staff members, Ruth Garbus and Matt Rebaudo.
The role of this search committee is to find two to three good candidates to present to the full board for a hiring decision. Early on, the committee refined the job description, articulated the qualifications of a worthy candidate, and advertised for the position. Lending strength to the process has been input from a consultant who has a number of decades of experience with the process of searching for and hiring a general manager specifically for food co-ops. Finding the right person to step into a $20M business with 160 employees and 6,700 shareholders is no small feat.
When my daughter, having grown up in the Co-op and now living in NYC, said, “Well, Mom, you should apply for the job!” I just looked down that list of qualifications and chuckled at the mere thought. The list is impressive.
Also impressive has been the process. Ruth Garbus from the Co-op staff shared her experience: “Not only have I been able to be a witness to the inner workings of the search for our new GM, more importantly, I've been welcomed as an active participant in this hugely important process. As a staff member and active union member that means a great deal to me—both as an individual, and, in a larger sense, as an acknowledgement of the importance of the Co-op's workforce.”
In February, we reviewed all applications received, selected the best candidates for an initial interview, and performed those interviews with careful attention to the extensive qualification matrix. We are hoping to present the final candidates to the board by the end of March.
“The process has been enlightening in several ways,” notes Janet Wallstein. “It has demonstrated the seriousness and importance of choosing a new general manager whose abilities and personality are best suited to fulfill the mission of the Co-op and advance its vision for many years to come. Having been a part of the process, and witnessing first-hand the commitment of all involved, I am confident that the process will have been fair and lead to a good outcome.”
I agree and would like to share my confidence in the process as I experience the thoroughness and thoughtfulness of the board’s focused activity. Here’s to a very bright future for our Co-op!