EOPA votes to begin succession planning

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  • A Toledo anti-poverty agency with a history of controversy could soon have a new leader.

    The board of directors of the Economic Opportunity Planning Association of Greater Toledo voted on Monday night to begin a succession planning process for the agency's Chief Executive Officer. They also voted to approve a review of the organization's structure.

    Board members said the move is not a criticism of the agency's senior leadership or CEO James Powell, who has informally notified the board of his intent to retire within the next 18 months, according to the resolution.

    "We have an excellent CEO," said Sylvester Gould, the board's vice chairman, who introduced the resolution. The measure was approved unanimously.

    Board member Vince Davis stated, "I, too, think Jim has done a good job" but added the agency would be wise to begin the planning process. Board members Aaron Baker and Gretchen DeBacker noted they believed examining the agency's overall structure was their primary concern, with succession planning being secondary.

    Mr. Powell declined to comment on the resolution, saying it was a board matter. He also declined to comment on when he intended to retire, joking he would step down, "when I feel like it."

    Succession planning and who should lead the agency is an issue that has divided board members in the past.

    In 2008, the board was in turmoil after the death of EOPA's longtime executive director, Oscar B. Griffith; he had led the association since 1976. After Mr. Griffith's death, Mr. Powell, a longtime deputy director, served as interim executive director. EOPA observers described what occurred after Mr. Griffith's death as a struggle between two factions of board members, one favoring Mr. Powell, and another wanting an outside candidate to lead the agency.

    While board members only made passing reference to it Monday night, a major aspect of EOPA's future is unclear at this point.

    The agency learned in December that it must compete against other agencies if it wants to continue receiving nearly $13 million annually to run Head Start, a program for 3 to 5-year-olds from low-income families. The federal grant will be awarded to up to three agencies; the announcement of what agency or agencies will be the grantee is not expected until December or later.

    Should EOPA not be awarded a full or partial grant, the impact on the central-city agency would be serious. Head Start funding makes up the bulk of the agency's $17.2 million annual budget, according to tax records. The agency also runs heating-assistance programs, home-repair assistance, a fatherhood program, and other social services in the city and county.

    Tax records from 2011 show Mr. Powell's annual salary at $112,839 with $18,878 in additional miscellaneous compensation.

    Contact Kate Giammarise at:


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