Jerri L. Compton, the community liaison for HomeCare Services at Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital, has been named the new executive director of the United Way of Northeast Kentucky.
She will succeed former school administrator Steve Towler, who announced in February he was stepping down as the head of the UW in Boyd, Greenup, Carter, Lawrence and Elliott counties after 14 years. Compton’s first day in her new post will be April 22.
Compton, a native of West Virginia and a 17-year resident of Ashland, admits she did not know much about UW before joining the OLBH staff in September 2011. However, because the hospital is a strong supporter of UW and it encourages its employees to be active volunteers, she soon found herself helping to organize the hospital’s in-house UW campaign and encouraging her fellow employees to give to the organization that raises money to support 70 nonprofit agencies in the five counties.
And the more she learned about UW, the more supportive she became of the organization and how it helps so many agencies perform vital services throughout the region, Compton said.
She said she believes there are many in the five counties who are still just like she was when she joined OLBH. “They may have heard of the United Way just like I had heard of the United Way,” she said. “But beyond that, they don’t know much about what the United Way does and how important it is to this region. I hope to change that.”
Compton has a bachelor’s degree in social work from Marshall University and a master of science degree in strategic leadership from Mountain State University. She has more than 15 years of finance, marketing and organizational leadership experience that has spanned the not-for-profit, government and private sectors.
Dwane Johnson, UW board chairman, chaired the committee appointed to head the search for the new executive director. The committee chose to not conduct a nationwide search for the new director because members believed the head of UW had to be someone familiar with the community and region. Sixteen applications for the post were received, and five finalists were interviewed by the search committee. Compton was the unanimous choice of the committee.
“She has the exuberance, excitement and personality that we were looking for,” Johnson said. “She is a very driven person in achieving her goals, and as a fundraising organization, the United Way is committed to achieving its campaign goals.”
While Johnson said he was saddened about Towler’s decision to step down as executive director, “I believe we have chosen a successor who will be able to build on the accomplishments of Steve Towler and help the United Way rise to the next level. We are convinced that Jerri Compton is the right person for the job.”
Compton said she has no qualms about asking people and companies to give to a worthy cause. “I”m not shy,” she said. “If I believe in something, it doesn’t bother me to ask people and companies to give to support it.”
Compton also recognizes that under Towler, the local UW has expanded into areas that move beyond its traditional fundraising activities. The BankOn program supported by financial institutions in the five counties helps individuals establish bank accounts and become better managers of limited resources. With individuals now receiving Social Security and other government checks by direct deposit, it is more important than ever for people to have bank accounts.
The online volunteer center managed by the local UW helps connect nonprofits with people seeking to volunteer. Born Learning, a new program for young children, helps to better prepare toddlers for school.
“I think these are great programs that have yet to reach their full potential,” Compton said of the new programs that don’t involve fundraising. “I want to see them grow and prosper.”
Compton will choose her own staff. Marlena Ross, the former director of UW in Greenup County, who became an administrative assistant when Greenup County merged with other UWs to form UW of Northeast Kentucky, is retiring, and Mary Crowley has already stepped down as the coordinator of the volunteer center. That means Compton will begin her new job as the only staff member of a local UW.
While the experience of the departing UW employees would certainly be beneficial for the new director, Towler said that can be a positive in another sense. “She gets to start anew and choose her own staff,” he said.
JOHN CANNON can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2649.