As many of you already know, Ken passed away at the end of January. During and after his struggle with cancer, there was a huge outpouring of support (to see some of it click here). His life and work touched so many people that I can’t do it justice in this short blog post. What I can talk about, though, is what it was like working with him during the first few years of the cooperative.
Ken moved from California 4 years ago to help start a new kind of conservation partnership. A partnership that could bring the conservation community together, over a large area, to decide “what we are for” (instead of always talking about things we are against).
For a while, Ken and I were the only staff for your cooperative. Luckily, thanks to our office space provided by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, our offices were right next to each other. We spent countless hours brainstorming and trying to find answers to some of the big questions: How can we make sure everyone has a voice in guiding this partnership? How can we make the biggest possible impact for conservation? How do we describe the partnership’s niche? How do we integrate with other efforts? How do we frame the big strategic questions for the steering committee?
Some of these long discussions were planned. Most were not. By the time we were done, the whiteboards would be full, papers would be scribbled on, and usually we’d have made a small breakthrough.
Ken and I balanced each other really well. I was always pushing us to move faster and be more ambitious. Ken was always making sure were setting expectations and not “outrunning our headlights”. We usually met somewhere in the middle with a solution we both liked even more. We made a great team. It’s hard to imagine ever finding another friend, boss, and colleague that is such a good fit.
I like to think that Ken help set this cooperative on it’s path to do great things. His vision was long term. He was constantly reading books on organizational theory and working on ways for the South Atlantic LCC to thrive for decades to come. In talking with him during the last days of his life, one of his biggest regrets was not living to see all the amazing things he expects this cooperative to do.
Hopefully sometime in the near future, you, me and a bunch of other folks will be having drinks at a bar, talking about the great things this cooperative has done. I’ll order a rusty nail (one of Ken’s favorite drinks) and we’ll all raise our glasses to Ken for helping make all this happen.