When Jennifer Gray Thompson, 48, resigned from her position as aide to 1st District Supervisor Susan Gorin in December, tongues were wagging – guessing where she would land next.
At the time, she told the Index-Tribune that she was looking for an opportunity where she could make an even greater impact on the Valley community.
And so, Gray Thompson begins the new year with a big new job. She has been named executive director of the Rebuild North Bay Foundation.
Rebuild North Bay describes itself as a coalition of elected officials, business people, nonprofits and non-government agencies in North Bay counties affected by the firestorms. The nonprofit’s goal, according to Gray Thompson, is to serve as a support hub and to raise as much money as possible to fill in the gaps left by insurance companies, government and charities.
The foundation’s founder, Darius Anderson, CEO of Kenwood Investments (and managing partner in Sonoma Media Investments, which owns the Index-Tribune) continues to serve as a board member.
Former national FEMA director James Lee Witt was named the foundation’s interim director in late October, and Gray Thompson said that he will continue to be involved, but in a different capacity.
“In the initial start-up of Rebuild, James was tremendously helpful with identifying areas of funding and need,” Gray Thompson said Monday. “But the foundation needed a long-term executive director to manage the daily aspects of the organization. This is where I come in. I’m diving into all aspects of Rebuild now, from setting up structures, systems, hiring, as well as working with the board as we focus the mission.” She added that Witt will, however, be available to the foundation on a consulting basis going forward.
Gray Thompson said that while the task ahead is daunting, she feels a strong recovery is “entirely possible with the right partnerships, organizations, and structured determination.”
“RNBF offers a central hub for this effort and taps into the extraordinary generosity of talent, skills, and financial support we witnessed during the fires.” said Gray Thompson.
As to Gray Thompson coming board, Anderson said, “My objective all along was to put together an organization, to staff it properly, and then step back and do what I do well, while deferring to others who are experts in their fields do what they do well.”
Gray Thompson grew up in Sonoma Valley and attended El Verano, Dunbar and Sassarini elementary schools, Altimira Middle School and Sonoma Valley High School. She is a longtime Springs resident.
She said that when driving up Highway 12 through the Valley for the first time following the October fires, she was struck by a need to play an active role in the area’s recovery.
“When I looked up at the scorched vista on the hills and to the sides of me at the ruins of homes, I knew what I wanted to do from here on out: to help our people and this place become whole again,” said Gray Thompson.
“I did not know what form that would take at the time, but when the goals of Rebuild North Bay became clear to me, I knew it was a perfect fit.”
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