December 8, 2022 – Executive recruitment firm BoardWalk Consulting has assisted in the recruitment of experienced civil rights leader, community organizer, and coalition builder Ben Jealous as the new executive director of the Sierra Club in Oakland, CA. Mr. Jealous will be the seventh executive director since the position was created in 1952 and the first person of color to serve in the role. Managing director Kathy Bremer, senior associate Diane Westmore, senior director Crystal Stephens, and senior research associate Lysondra Somerville led the assignment.
“After an extensive search, we are thrilled to welcome Ben Jealous to the Sierra Club during such a critical juncture in our transformation, as we continue to discover more equitable and just ways to fight for a healthy and sustainable future,” said Ramón Cruz, president of Sierra Club. “Ben has demonstrated a personal commitment to our core values throughout his career as a community organizer, environmental and civil rights leader. He’s been a staunch advocate for the health of our planet since he was a child growing up in California and has worked tirelessly at the intersection of the environment, equity, and social justice – marking the path to a world that honors the harmony between our collective humanity and our planet.”
The board’s vote ended a nine-month search process, which was guided by a leadership profile created from input by more than 2,000 Sierra Club volunteers, staff members, and donors. A search committee of board members, staff, and volunteers used that description to consider hundreds of applicants.
“Ben’s leadership in organizations like ours – organizations with long histories of impact and foundations in their grassroots – is vital experience to lead the Sierra Club,” said Loren Blackford, a long-time Sierra Club volunteer, interim executive director and former board member and former Sierra Club president. “Ben’s leadership and experience will help us leverage our long history of mobilizing grassroots power and reflect on the ways we have failed to recognize people of color and caused harm to communities that we aimed to protect. At the same time, he can point us to a future where we recognize the disproportionate impact of climate change and environmental decay, based on race, gender, class and other identities and that it will truly take all of us to preserve a livable planet and create a transition from an exploitative economy to one that works for everyone.”
In a career that has spanned from organizer to social impact investor in green technology, Mr. Jealous has been president of People for the American Way since 2020 and was the youngest person to serve as president and CEO of the NAACP from 2008 to 2013. The NAACP launched its climate justice program under Jealous’ leadership and in 2012 issued its report Coal Blooded: Putting Profits before People, which assessed the impact of the nation’s 378 coal-fired power plants on communities of color and low-income communities. It was an extension of work Mr. Jealous began as an investigative reporter for the Jackson Advocate exposing “cancer clusters” in Mississippi’s rural communities caused by industrial pollution.
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person’s right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action.
Non-Profit Focused Recruiters
BoardWalk Consulting, based in Atlanta, is a national executive search firm that recruits CEOs and senior leadership for mission-driven non-profit organizations. Founded in 2002, the firm leads executive searches for clients from across the non-profit sector with global, national, regional, and local missions. Many of the firm’s team members have previously served as non-profit executives, grant makers, and board leaders. BoardWalk Consulting is also an active partner in Panorama, the global network of independent executive search firms.
Ms. Bremer joined BoardWalk Consulting in 2007 after eight years as head of Porter Novelli Atlanta. Prior to that, she served as senior vice president of fundraising and marketing for CARE. Earlier in her career, Ms. Bremer was a senior executive at three New York ad agencies, where she led Procter & Gamble and other client work. Prior to these roles, she worked as a journalist and writer in Tokyo. She has led numerous executive searches for clients including ADL, Heifer, Save the Children, CDC Foundation, Oxfam, HIAS, Research!America, Jane Goodall Institute, TSNE MissionWorks, The Trustees and many others.
Ms. Westmore has over 30 years of search experience recruiting president/CEO, vice president and senior-level executives spanning all functional areas. She joined BoardWalk after 12 years at Spencer Stuart, where she partnered with a broad range of consultants working across multiple practices. Before that, she spent 15 years at Bowman & Associates, a boutique search firm specializing in venture-funded medical technology companies, leaving as a vice president. She began her career at La Crosse Lutheran Hospital/Gunderson Clinic in marketing.
Ms. Stephens joined BoardWalk in 2012 after extensive experience working with top-tier organizations in sales, marketing and recruiting. She spent most of her corporate career with IBM in senior sales and marketing positions. As executive vice president at Monster.com, she managed a global sales team. Ms. Stephens has led mission-critical searches for clients such as Year Up, Communities in Schools and the Anti-Defamation League.
Ms. Somerville has worked as a corporate consultant, product manager, and marketing expert. She brings a decade’s worth of experience in various business, marketing, and management roles. Ms. Somerville is an accomplished corporate strategist with a deep understanding of organizational management and operational effectiveness.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media