Council Bids Farewell to Long-Time Board Member Chris Richmond

Denise Jess and Chris Richmond sitting on a sofa
Executive Director Denise Jess and Outgoing Board Member Chris Richmond

This month the Council says farewell to a long-serving and invaluable member of our Board of Directors. Chris Richmond first joined the Board in 2012. He served as Board Chair from 2015 to 2021. Along the way, Chris has served on all the Board’s committees as well as some work groups. His term ends December 31.

“I think my primary motivation for becoming involved with the Council and serving on the Board was paying it forward,” Chris says. “Having been the recipient of the Council’s efforts to ensure more equitable opportunities for blind people in education and employment, it seemed only appropriate to share in advancing the Council’s mission.”

Council Executive Director Denise Jess will miss Chris’ contributions. She also knows that he’s leaving behind a Board he helped enrich. “Chris is an exemplary leader who knows how to honor an organization’s past while embracing the present and guiding it into the future,” Denise says. “Chris brought this sort of leadership to his board service, and the Council is stronger today because of it.”

Chris graduated from the Wisconsin School for the Visually Handicapped in Janesville. He began his career as a high school English and science teacher. Over time he branched out into medical social work, health care administration and mental health services. He first learned about the Council long before he joined the Board. He heard about it from classmates in elementary school, students whose parents were involved with the Council.

Current Board Chair Nick Sinram knew he had big shoes to fill when he took over the leadership post from Chris last year. “Chris has been dedicated to the Council and its mission for years,” Nick says. “He’s intelligent, logical and a strong critical thinker. He’s been a steady example of leadership for the rest of us.”

The occasional tedium of committee work can often be lessened by the right kind of leadership. For Nick, leadership requires the right kind of communication skills, something he appreciated during Chris’ tenure. “I think Chris’ strongest among many skills is his ability to communicate his critical thinking clearly and succinctly to fellow board members and staff,” says Nick.

During his time on the Council’s Board, Chris has worked hard with his fellow members to preserve the Council’s rich, 70-year history and traditions while initiating changes to promote progress in advocacy, technology and access to services. “During my tenure as Chair, the Board continued to develop a strong policy governance model, moving away from its previous, more operational focus,” says Chris. “In addition, the board changed its philosophy regarding fundraising, choosing instead to invest in relationship building with donors. The board also saw the necessity of broadening the Council’s messaging, making it more inclusive.” Chris also oversaw the initiative to make the Council more fiscally responsible while adding services.

All these accomplishments add up to a wholesale updating of the Board’s mission and work, changes Nick says “modernize the board from a membership-based organization to a more professional model of leadership that will ensure effectiveness, efficiency and longevity for the organization and the clients it serves.”

“My biggest takeaway from watching Chris has been the importance of leading through action,” Nick says. “Chris’s consistent dedication and willingness to do the work himself has inspired me to try to live up to his example.”

Chris says he too has learned a lot along the way. “Since I’ve been on the board, I’ve learned that agencies thrive when there is a respectful exchange of differing ideas from a variety of perspectives and that everyone’s contributions are valuable,” he says. “Furthermore, I’ve gained a renewed appreciation for our donors, without whose generosity our work would not be possible.”

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