After five pivotal years of incredible growth and progress, the WSC Board of Directors announces that Executive Director Eric K. Ward has transitioned to Senior Advisor. The WSC Board is delighted that Eric will remain part of the organization and that it will continue to benefit from his visionary leadership. This transition of leadership responsibilities will enable Eric and WSC to engage even more deeply in advancing a rapidly expanding movement committed to defending inclusive and multiracial democracy.
Libra Forde, an Oregon-based leader with an impressive background in managing nonprofit organizations will serve as WSC’s Interim Executive Director. Non-profit HR, a national firm, will manage the search for two new co-Executive Directors.
Appointed in 2017, Eric is the fourth WSC Executive Director and the first Black Executive Director in the organization’s 35-year history and will remain an important part of the WSC brain trust committed to resourcing WSC’s strategic direction.
During Eric’s 5-year tenure, WSC’s national reputation expanded to touch more than 80,000 people across twenty-four states, annual revenue bolstered to a projected $3.45 million, its team grew to twenty staff members, consultants, and senior fellows, and the Board of Directors transitioned to be 100% Black women-led. In 2021, Eric became the first U.S. recipient of the Civil Courage Prize, an award presented by the Train Foundation to an individual or group who steadfastly resists evil at great personal risk.
“Through Eric’s passionate commitment to inclusive democracy and his decades of expertise, WSC has transformed into a nationally recognized organization with a bold, daring voice,” says WSC Board Chair Mariotta Gary-Smith. “We are deeply appreciative for his continued leadership as we navigate this important transition.” Continuing, she said, “Libra Forde’s executive leadership during this transitional period will ensure WSC can smoothly stay the course.”
“It has been a great honor and privilege to serve as Executive Director of WSC these past five years,” Eric says. “No person is an island. What has been accomplished at WSC, including the impact of my public leadership, is a living testament to the abilities of the organization, its network of civil leadership, senior fellows, funders, board members, and staff. This is the right time to usher in new and robust leadership energy, and to live our values through a new leadership structure for this next stage of the organization’s work. I could not be more excited about the example WSC is setting for the field.”
Based in the Pacific Northwest and Mountain States, Western States Center works nationwide to strengthen inclusive democracy through building movements, developing leaders, shifting culture, and defending democracy.