Leadership changes at nonprofits

René Popke of the downtown Rainier Foothills Wellness Foundation will be taking over Scott Gray’s job as head of the Expo Center in the near future.

As Scott Gray scales back his duties at the Enumclaw Expo Center, René Popke will assume the top job. Photo by Kevin Hanson

As Scott Gray scales back his duties at the Enumclaw Expo Center, René Popke will assume the top job. Photo by Kevin Hanson

A pair of Enumclaw’s foremost nonprofit entities are planning for changes at the top.

René Popke, director at Rainier Foothills Wellness Foundation, and Scott Gray, who heads the Enumclaw Expo and Events Association, announced late last week they will be leaving their current posts.

While Popke will slide from her downtown Foundation office into the top job at the Expo Center, Gray will scale back his involvement.

While new leadership can bring challenges, both Popke and Gray are emphasizing their commitment to stability. The most important thing, they agree, is to maintain the current momentum enjoyed by their organizations. As part of that effort, they have left plenty of time – perhaps late fall, maybe the end of the year – to let the changes play out.

Gray has looked at slowing his pace before – “this is try No. 4 at retirement,” he jokes – and has again found an opportunity. Instead of being in charge of everything and everyone at the Expo Center, he’ll work part-time, seeking additional sponsorships and ferreting out new events for the Expo Center.

“It’s time for me to pass the reins to someone,” he said, quickly adding that Popke is a logical fit.

“She comes with pretty good credentials,” Gray said, explaining that Popke currently sits on the Expo Center board of directors and previously had a hand in coordinating events that continue today at the venue.

“She’s coming at a good time to take things to the next level,” Gray said, citing Popke’s background and experience as a grant writer.

As for the job Popke will be leaving, a June 7 letter from the Rainier Foothills Wellness Foundation board of directors noted the process of hiring a new director should begin in late July.

An Enumclaw native, Popke was the Foundation’s first executive director, beginning her post in March 2011.

The letter from the Foundation board was highly complimentary, noting that Popke was “absolutely the right leader” when she was brought on board. The board cited her as a driving force behind programs that help feed senior citizens and youngsters in need; provide transportation and medical assistance for seniors; and help those fighting addiction and battling mental health issues.

“Rene’s efforts…will continue to benefit the Plateau for years to come,” the board letter said.

Popke stresses that it’s time for a change at the Foundation and, with her leaving, directors will have the opportunity to look at structural changes that will show long-term benefits.

“Everything is happening at the right time,” she said.

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