Lesher Foundation Names Melissa Stafford Jones New Executive Director


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April 27, 2017
Lesher Foundation Names Melissa Stafford Jones New Executive Director
Obama Administration Official and Contra Costa Resident Has Deep Local Roots
WALNUT CREEK--The Dean & Margaret Lesher Foundation is proud to welcome Melissa Stafford Jones as the organization’s new Executive Director.  Melissa joins the Contra Costa based family foundation after serving as Regional Director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as an appointee of President Obama.  A Contra Costa native and resident, Melissa succeeds Kathleen Odne, who is retiring after a distinguished 23-year career as the Foundation’s first and only Executive Director. Melissa will start her new role in mid-May.
“We are very excited to welcome Melissa to our organization,” said Foundation Board President Cynthia Lesher.  “This was an important decision for the Foundation, and for our family, and we know Melissa will do a fantastic job.”
“Melissa brings with her a wide range of experiences, and is also deeply rooted in our community,” said Foundation Vice President Steve Lesher.  “She has the expertise, love of community, and heart for service so essential to accomplishing our mission.” 
“The Lesher Foundation plays a tremendous role in making Contra Costa County the wonderful, vibrant community it is.  I’m honored to join the Foundation and carry forward its work in improving the lives of individuals and families in our community,” said Stafford Jones.
"It has been an extraordinary privilege to work so closely with the Lesher family to help them achieve their philanthropic goals,” said outgoing Executive Director Kathleen Odne.  “As I retire, I feel grateful that we were able to accomplish some important work to improve our Contra Costa communities.  It’s a pleasure to have Melissa come on board, and I know the Lesher Foundation will endure as a vital community asset."
Melissa grew up in Contra Costa County and graduated from Saint Mary’s College, where she currently sits on the School of Science Advisory Board. After graduating from SMC, Melissa obtained a Master’s in Public Health from U.C. Berkeley and worked for the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center in Martinez, before becoming President & CEO of the California Association of Public Hospitals.  In her various roles, she has been a promoter of social safety net services for vulnerable populations, and an active volunteer in support of homeless families.  Melissa is also a lover of the performing arts, growing up a ballet dancer and performing at the Lesher Center for the Arts.  An avid Saint Mary’s basketball fan, Melissa lives in Walnut Creek with her husband and two children.
The Lesher Foundation was founded in 1994 by the late Dean and Margaret Lesher with the mission of improving the quality of life in Contra Costa County through support of the arts, education, and children and families.  Among other social investments, the Foundation has provided major funding for county libraries, the Food Bank and safety net services, and a wide range of programming for the performing and visual arts.  The Foundation also sponsors the Newsmakers Lesher Speaker Series which brings world leaders, authors, policymakers, and other subject matter experts to Contra Costa County.
The Foundation Board would like to thank everyone who participated in our executive search process, including outgoing Executive Director Kathleen Odne, Grants Manager Susan Haley, Jack Evans of the Hall Perrine Foundation, Larry Sly of the Food Bank of Contra Costa/Solano, Peggy White of the Diablo Regional Arts Association, and Scott Denison at the Lesher Center for the Arts.  Each invested their time to assist our search committee.  We are also very grateful to Nancy Painter of Painter Executive Search who was retained to design and lead our search process and did an outstanding job.  We had many wonderful candidates for the position, and we would like to thank them as well for the time they spent with us.  
Lastly, we want to extend our deep gratitude to Kathleen Odne who for 23 years has served with distinction in this position.  Her leadership, grace, and heart built the Foundation into what it is today and made her job such an attractive one for so many great candidates.  Among her other activities in a well-deserved retirement, Kathleen will be joining the Lesher Foundation’s Board of Directors.
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