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January 28, 2015

Newman leaving Leadership Montgomery

As Esther Newman went around Montgomery County in 1989, she began to notice that she was seeing many of the same people over and over again on various boards and committees.

And not only were the faces the same, but they overwhelmingly shared two characteristics, she said: They were white and almost entirely male.

Out of that experience grew Leadership Montgomery, the organization Newman founded and has led for 26 years.

Last week, she announced her plans to leave the Rockville nonprofit in September.

A committee will be appointed to find Leadership Montgomery’s new CEO.

She said she intends to stay active in the county and in community service, a plan to “not retire, but re-wire,” she said.

Newman has been a leader since early on.

At Roosevelt High School in Washington, D.C., she was vice president of the student council and editor of the school newspaper.

She got married out of high school and had two children. But when they went to school, Newman did, too.

She earned her associate degree from Montgomery College, a bachelor’s degree from Antioch University and a master’s in applied behavioral science from Johns Hopkins University in 1983.

Newman said she took great pride in getting her education while also raising a family.

“Somehow, I found ways to do it all,” she said.

She got involved in various organizations that found her working with community leaders, and started looking for ways to provide opportunities to involve a more diverse group of people in the county.

Montgomery County has such a wealth of talent, community involvement and lots of people who care deeply about the community, Newman said.

But she said Leadership Montgomery has grown beyond anything she would have thought possible, both in the number of programs it can offer and the number of people able to participate.

Newman sees the organization as a sort of community trusteeship, nurturing successive generations of community leaders from the business, political and nonprofit sectors.

“We expect people to give back,” she said, although the organization doesn’t tell participants where or how to do it.

The organization provides a range of programs, from its original core program to a senior leadership program for people 55 and older, a youth leadership program for high school students and a one-day executive program.

This year, for the first time, it’s offering an emerging leaders program for people 25 to 35 years old, Newman said.

Over the years, the organization has grown financially, too. It had revenues of $711,345 in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2013, finishing the year with net assets of $819,637, according to its most recent available tax return. Most of its revenues were from contributions, grants and program service revenues.

Leadership Montgomery was a “fantastic leadership experience,” said Laurie Boyer, executive director of Rockville Economic Development Inc.

Her participation gave her a chance to meet people from different areas of the county with whom she never would have had the chance to come in contact, she said.

Along with having a great staff, board and alumni network, Newman understands the big picture and “how everything interconnects,” Boyer said.

Montgomery County Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Bethesda completed the course in 2002. He calls Newman an “indomitable force.”

His participation taught him a lot about the county, giving him a greater understanding of its diversity and the issues that affect its residents.

He said the program gave him a greater appreciation for the significance of county government and how it affects people’s lives.

It also helped him develop relationships with other leaders in various parts and sectors of the county, Berliner said, helping to get beyond the superficial and creating a trust.

“You learn and you meet people who are important,” Berliner said.

Newman said she has personal and professional reasons to leave, including several people in her life dealing with various medical situations.

She’s also looking forward to having more chances to volunteer, as well as spend more time with her husband, children and six grandchildren.

But as she prepares to leave, Newman is proud of the impact Leadership Montgomery has had on the county.

“It has changed people’s lives in ways that could never be imagined,” she said.

 



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