NEK community and economic development nonprofit hires new leader

in Newport/News/Northeast Kingdom

NEWPORT — Following the transition of Katherine Sims to the legislature and a rigorous three-month search process, the Northeast Kingdom Collaborative (NEKC) has named Jennifer Carlo as its Executive Director.

Carlo, former Executive Director for NEK staple Circus Smirkus, had been on the hunt for her next calling and was drawn to the hands-on community-building mission of the Collaborative.

“Katherine Sims was one of the first people I met when I came to the Northeast Kingdom years ago,” Carlo said. “She painted such a vivid picture of the Collaborative and the amazing work it does. I’ve had the chance to participate in several Collaborative programs over the years so I’ve seen firsthand the impact this organization and its partners have in the Kingdom.”

For more than 20 years, NEKC has worked to improve the quality of life for residents through coordinated economic and community development.

In 2017, the NEKC embraced a new organizational structure that has increased its community and economic impact in the region.

They expanded the size of the cross-sector governing board and hired Sims to direct the organization, which has since become a leader of collective action in the region.

In April of 2020, the organization shifted its focus to region-wide economic recovery following the global pandemic crisis.

Sims and the NEKC board collaborated with regional leaders and community partners to outline the most feasible and impactful strategies to accelerate the recovery of the NEK.

The resulting NEK Recovery Action Plan is now in motion with strategies to increase access to broadband, housing, education, and business support.

Carlo says she’s ready to pick up the important work outlined in the recovery plan.

With deep connections in the region and a clear penchant for community-building, Carlo is committed to tangible results for NEK residents.

“I’m grateful for all the work our communities and organizations have put into the plan and I’m ready to roll up my sleeves with people across the Kingdom to help bring real and lasting benefits to our communities.”

Tom Lovett, previously a member of the organization’s board of directors, stepped up as Interim Director to allow the organization ample time to find the right candidate between Sims’ election in November and the April start date.

“It’s been gratifying in this interim role to witness firsthand the impact of the Collaborative’s work, and to hear from others in Vermont and neighboring states about how much they admire our region’s ability to speak with a unified voice,” Lovett said. “I’m excited to see how Jen brings life to the vision of a thriving and dynamic Northeast Kingdom.”

According to the board, Carlo immediately stood out from a large pool of candidates qualified for the position.

“We were looking for a very specific person and we’re quite lucky to have found her.” said long-time board chair, Jody Fried. “Jen has the expertise, the collaborative spirit, and the local connections required to excel in this role.”

The NEKC says its goal is to create strategic alignment, a shared vision, and a unified voice across sectors so that the entire region can flourish.

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