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Hello, Friends –

Did you know that I almost had to repeat kindergarten? It’s true, I was nearly an elementary school flunkie. I was told it was because I was not coloring inside the lines, but I had a sneaking suspicion that it was because my old school teacher was not exactly a fan of the constant stream of questions that regularly tumbled out of my mouth. After a hard-fought year, as I went on to first grade, that old school teacher grudgingly admitted on a report card that “She has a keen sense of right and wrong.”

Nearly 40 years later, that is still the best compliment I have ever received and has shaped my philosophy for life and leadership. If you are reading this, you know that I have never gotten over my desire (some say compulsion) to ask questions, share information broadly, and challenge systems of power and authority. These philosophies have anchored my life and guided my work here at Empowered Aging over these last seven years.

When I became Executive Director for what was then known as Ombudsman Services of Contra Costa Inc., I promised to always be truthful with our community, believing that in order to strengthen the organization and develop partnerships, we needed radical honesty. Even when it was hard. So, today, I come to you with some news that I am excited to share and yet still hurts my heart. So, here goes.

A few months ago, I told the Empowered Aging Board of Directors that I would be leaving my role as Executive Director at the end of the 21/22 fiscal year. This was a painful decision and the result of lots of examination, numerous pro/con lists, and more than a few tears. I love the team members I work with and am dedicated to the older adults we serve. And yet, I have noticed an increasing restlessness and a desire to take on new, bigger and broader challenges on behalf of older adults.

These random thoughts have come into sharp focus in the last few months in DC, as I have spent many hours poring over federal policy and academic reports and engaged with advocates and stakeholders. While I have deeply enjoyed leading a direct service nonprofit, I am preparing to move into a policy role where I can leverage my’ boots on the ground’ knowledge of the needs of seniors and use it to create comprehensive and common-sense policies that empower older adults. To this end, I will spend the next several months focusing exclusively on my fellowship and my work for the Committee on Ways and Means. I will use this time to continue my learning and determine where/when I will be most impactful.

But here is the thing – of all the moving pieces and changes, the thing I am least worried about is Empowered Aging and its future. Our team members are trusted partners in each of the three communities we serve, and we have grown to become a well-respected and well-run organization doing important work across Contra Costa, Solano, and Alameda Counties. Empowered Aging will continue to work on behalf of older adults and adapt to meet the evolving landscape of support services and advocacy.

As I have pondered my transition, one of the strong drivers that has guided my desire to move on is a firm belief that it is time for someone else to take this seat. It is time for a new leader to shape the next phase of Empowered Aging. And this is good and healthy growth.

I am excited to share with you that the Board of Directors has selected the best possible candidate to become Executive Director of Empowered Aging. The new leader of Empowered Aging is someone I have known for seven years and come to regard as an exemplary leader, committed advocate, and strategic thinker that I am lucky to call a friend and colleague. I am honored to share that our Director of Programs, Susannah Meyer, will become our next Executive Director on July 1, 2022!

Susannah has worked in the field of aging for over 10 years and has distinguished herself as a community leader, skilled at building collaborative relationships and developing high-impact programming. I wholeheartedly support Susannah in this new roll and look forward to seeing her lead Empowered Aging into the future.

This news might be a surprise to some of you, and I want to highlight a couple of things that give me confidence in the future of Empowered Aging.

• Empowered Aging will continue to provide exemplary support services to seniors in each of our three service areas.
• Team members are eager to continue partnerships with all of the agencies and organizations we work with to build a strong support network for older adults.
• The Board of Directors is actively engaged and will work with staff to help chart a course for strategic development over the next five to ten years.
• Empowered Aging was built on a solid foundation. Staff and board have worked diligently to create a strong and resilient infrastructure that is prepared to weather any transition.

Be sure to check out the letter from our Board President below talking more about the transition.

I will always be a dedicated cheerleader for Empowered Aging, and I hope you will join me in my excitement for the future of the organization under Susannah’s leadership. Please feel free to contact Susannah at SusannahMeyer@EmpoweredAging.org, and don't forget to follow her on LinkedIn. Also, if you're not already, I encourage you to follow Empowered Aging on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube to stay up-to-date on the amazing work being done by this passionate and dedicated team.

I am inspired by each of you and know that our paths will continue to cross. To keep up with me, please connect with me on LinkedIn. I will be launching a podcast later this Summer to guide advocates to become better policymakers. You don’t want to miss the conversation or any of my adventures.

Thank you again for all of your love and support over these last seven years.

Nicole Howell

Letter from our Board President – Michelle Hasan

Greetings!

Several years ago, when I came to what is now Empowered Aging, we were a single-service agency serving a single county. Through intentional conversations and strategic planning, the Board and staff saw a broader vision for the agency’s future and prepared to expand. I am proud to say that since 2017 we have grown considerably to support half a million seniors and their families, and we have become a regional organization. With such a strong foundation in place, moving forward with a change in leadership will bring additional opportunities for collaboration, growth, and expansion.

I know I speak for all of us on the Empowered Aging Board of Directors when I say that we are grateful for Nicole Howell’s leadership and her commitment to our most vulnerable senior residents over the past 7 years. We are sad to see her go, and we recognize the positive change she has impacted to expand our initial programming. She has guided our agency through the COVID pandemic with great compassion and determination. Empowered Aging has launched innovative programs that are increasing our reach and ability to serve. Our virtual Lunch and Learn series reaches outside the boundaries of our direct service areas and has educated industry professionals worldwide. Our Friendly Visiting and Telephone Reassurance programs help to combat loneliness and provide critical connections to prevent isolation. We are directly improving patient care through the Healthcare Career Pathway initiative – a model to soon be expanded statewide through far-reaching collaborative partnerships. And we continue to serve through our benchmark Ombudsman programs – advocating for 29,000 residents in long-term care in the three counties we support.

Nicole is leaving our agency in a position of great strength. We know she will continue to make an impact locally and on the national stage in the field of aging, and we wish her success in that journey.

After taking an inventory of the needs of Empowered Aging and completing a national search, I am pleased to introduce Susannah Meyer as the agency’s new Executive Director. Susannah most recently served as the Director of Programs at Empowered Aging and is a well-respected pillar of the Contra Costa community. She has demonstrated during her professional career to be a staunch advocate for seniors and underserved populations. Susannah brings over a decade of experience working with older adults and a background in nonprofit leadership, in addition to previous work for the CA State Senate. She currently serves her community as a City Council Member and has been active in government policy and public service at a local and state level.

The Empowered Aging board is excited to work with Susannah as we continue our commitment to a high level of service to individuals, their families, and the communities we serve.

Thank you for your continued support,

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Michelle Hasan
Empowered Aging Board President