SM PIER — Heal the Bay announced a change up in its management team Tuesday in preparation for the departure of long-time president Mark Gold, who has accepted a position with UCLA.

Karin Hall, Heal the Bay’s current executive director, will lead the staff of the 27-year-old Santa Monica-based environmental nonprofit and Stephanie Medina Rodriguez, who has served on its board for eight years, will succeed Matthew Hart as chairperson of the Board of Directors.

The board decided to eliminate the position of president, a job it created for Gold in 2006 so that he could begin branching out from the day-to-day operations of the organization and into other roles in local boards and commissions, or writing editorials for Heal the Bay, Medina Rodriguez said.

“It made sense,” she said. “Most non-profits lead with an executive director … We decided that we have a full team, and a strong executive director.”

At the same time, Gold had begun working with staff to develop a succession plan to ensure that when he left, the role that he had filled as the organization’s frontman was divvied up amongst the 43 staff members that remained.

“We spent the last five years thinking about and building the organization so that when he left, the impact wouldn’t be so horrible on the work that we’re doing,” Hall said.

Under the new organization, Hall will continue to provide day-to-day management for Heal the Bay and help guide the organization as it moves forward with its mission to educate people about the impacts humans have on the oceans.

She’s no stranger to management, having spent 15 years as a senior executive in advertising firms that handled whale accounts like Starbucks, Expedia and Acura.

Still, the front-facing role she’ll be playing at Heal the Bay, particularly in terms of fundraising and ensuring that the organization can stay on its feet in tough fiscal times, will be a challenge.

“We have a lot to adapt to internally in Heal the Bay without Mark,” Hall said, “and the challenge in 2012 is to make sure that we are efficient and effective with every donor’s dollar.”

Medina Rodriguez, who has been the first chair of the Heal the Bay Board of Directors under Hart, feels confident that the organization will continue on in its mission despite the loss of its leader.

“Our job is to make sure that staff feels supported and good about it,” she said. “We want to make sure everybody feels supported and valuable in their jobs.”

Heal the Bay has a number of focuses in the coming year, including educating the public about new Marine Protected Areas that came into being on Jan. 1 and working with lawmakers to impose a ban on single-use plastic bags throughout California.

Santa Monica, with support from Heal the Bay, passed a similar ban in 2011, which officially came into effect in September.

The organization will also work with local school districts to get literacy materials developed in partnership with National Geographic into classrooms to teach kids about the environment and begin advocating for a permit system for storm water to reduce the amount of polluted runoff that finds its way to the ocean.

“It will be different without Mark in a lot of ways, but the work is the same and the people doing the work is still the same,” Medina Rodriguez said.


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