Building our Future at the 2024 Fahe Spring Retreat

Leadership | April 24, 2024

“Thanks for showing up,” said Fahe’s Board Chair and President and CEO of HomeSource east Tennessee Jackie Mayo. “We are growing in impact, but we are still small enough of a group to know each other and support each other.”

Mayo was addressing the attendees of the annual Fahe Spring Retreat in Berea, Kentucky this year, which was themed “Building our Future: Leadership Summit.”

67 percent of Fahe Members came together for the two-day summit. Members were eager to hear from Sara Morgan, president of Fahe. Morgan provided a President’s Report regarding what Fahe is proactively doing to increase the flow of investment and resources to the region and what opportunities we see on the horizon.

The Spring Retreat is a forum for Fahe Member executive directors and CEOs to talk about what is possible and how to make our network better. Fahe Members are currently grappling with disruptions in how employment works and in our housing and community development business models.

“The Fahe Spring Retreat is all about leadership,” said Vonda Poynter, Fahe’s senior vice president of Membership. “This year we covered a lot of ground–from changes in the landscape in which we operate, to early progress with our Working Groups that are inspired by our Strategic Plan, to recent advocacy wins, and HR strategies for success.”

Attendees heard a recurring concept throughout the two days: “We know best what needs to be done for Appalachia.” This was especially notable in the panel entitled “Winds of Change” that featured dynamic Member presentations on recent case studies of innovation and adaptation.

Clinch-Powell RC&D’s Executive Director Lindy Turner spoke about succession planning. Humorously titled “Bumbles, Stumbles, and Fumbles,” Turner’s presentation outlined her perspective that while some fear change, “change is fabulous.” She encouraged all the Fahe Member leaders—new and old—to embrace the notion that they must plan for their replacements starting on day one. She assured everyone that it would take some time to get it right and that they would know when it would be time to invoke the plan.

Dave Clark, executive director of Woodlands, discussed his approach to bringing broadband to West Virginia. Clark is helming an ARC and EPA funded initiative to bring an open access network to the “last mile” in his region. He hopes that more households and organizations such as schools, libraries, and clinics can have access to the internet as a result. Woodlands will own the network and a private ISP will operate it. Clark is making good progress and is currently in discussions with the utility company that owns the poles in a rural route.

Julie Keel, associate executive director of Mountain T.O.P., shared an inspiring example of how to persist in producing a small home build. She described facing significant challenges in her region such as the lack of active development, not enough of a skilled workforce, and where educational attainment can be low. Keel found a solution eventually, even though it meant starting without all the funding in place and finding new partners out of necessity, like the school system. She said she was excited to use her experience to “change the narrative about affordable housing in our community.”

As the event concluded Fahe’s CEO Jim King invited attendees to spend the summer months contemplating what more the Membership can do about the housing crisis in this country. “It’s up to us,” King said. “I’m eager to hear what you are thinking we can do to address this issue when we get back together again for our annual meeting.”

Fahe Member Services Manager Jackie Weiss reminded everyone that our annual meeting will be held from September 9-11 in Roanoke, Virginia and that details will be posted online closer to the event.