Wilson appointed to Community Leadership Council
By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation is a grant-making organization in North Carolina that focuses on several areas including economic development, environmental issues, public education, social justice and equity, and more. Now, an EBCI tribal member has been selected to join the group’s Community Leadership Council.
Juanita Wilson, Director of Snowbird and Cherokee County Services, will join 19 other leaders from across the state to serve a three-year term on the group’s second Leadership Council – the first convened from 2013-15.
The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation released the following statement on this crop of members, “The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation realizes how valuable it is to have the involvement of a diverse group of leaders, who have their fingers on the pulse of the state, partner with us as we continue to work alongside the people and communities of North Carolina.”
Wilson, who related that the Leadership Council is currently in a strategic assessment phase and is re-examining their focus, said, “We have been selected for our leadership roles that we have been playing in our jobs and communities. They’re at the point now to where they’re asking themselves, ‘are we doing what we need to be doing?’ ‘Have we evolved enough?’”
She said the group is quite diverse and includes people from various walks of life such as James Moore, City of Rocky Mount Police Chief; Marcus Hill, Forsyth Community Food Consortium lead coordinator; and many others.
“They’re putting us through various exercises just to get some kind of idea of what we’re seeing and experiencing as leaders across North Carolina,” Wilson commented.
Diversity awareness is a focus of the group. “Social justice is really important to Z. Smith Reynolds…it’s really important for them that the health and well-being of North Carolina citizens is secure and that things are being provided.”
She said the Leadership Council will also delve into the various populations of North Carolina. “What do families look like? What are they struggling with? We went through several exercises where they were trying to figure out what we represented, and there were groups missing such as the LGBT community. They didn’t have any representation there in terms of the family unit.”
Wilson noted that finding groups that weren’t represented in the Leadership Council will help the group identify under-represented groups statewide that they need to make sure to include in the strategic planning.
She added, “It’s my opportunity to bring awareness for what the Cherokee community sees, how it’s growing, what it’s experiencing…to bring awareness of how we operate and what some of our challenges are. Wherever I can connect us across North Carolina I think is very important because we are a driving force now with our gaming industry.”
In her day job which she took less than a month ago, Wilson oversees 13 programs serving EBCI tribal members in the distant communities of Cherokee County and Snowbird. Some of those include the Snowbird Youth Center; Snowbird Recreation; as well as satellite offices of tribal programs such as Housing, Emergency Housing, HELP, Family Support, Community Health, Transit, and others.
Her position is newly-created so she said a large portion of what she is doing now is similar to her work with the Leadership Council – assessing needs for the two communities.
She said funding has not been adequate over the years. “A lot of times, with the layers, they don’t get things on a timely manner or maybe not at all. They often feel like they get the leftovers or the crumbs…my job is to get them budgets, to assess what they need. Do they need vehicles? Do they need staff?”
Wilson said funding is critical. “With the right kind of budgets, we can do outreach. Our clientele will increase, but it’s a challenge because the Snowbird Complex is only so large.”
A new Complex building is a project she hopes to tackle once other more critical needs are met. “It’s a huge need. I am reorganizing office space because we have three Community Health aides crammed into one small space so we are moving them into something larger. It’s that simple sometimes…if they don’t feel good where they’re at, then they’re not going to take that positive energy out to the clients. It’s really important for me that the staff feels like they’re valued and they have what they need to do their job.”
Speaking of positive energy, Wilson said the reaction to her position and the job her office is doing has been very positive. “They feel like not only do they need someone who can support and advocate for them, but they need someone who can bring accountability.”
She said the job is a huge honor and a great challenge at the same time. “I want to get it right while we have this new opportunity. People are hopeful, and I just love that. It’s going to grow, and I think it’s a visionary thing Chief Lambert did and to recognize that while these communities may not be huge like we have up here, they are just as valuable so they’re going to get their own person. I just think it was visionary for the Chief, and I’m happy Tribal Council supported it.”