Coalfield Development CEO Brandon Dennison Statement on Transition to New Role at Marshall University

Dear friends, colleagues, and supporters,

As a close partner of Coalfield Development, I wanted you to hear some important news directly from me. Beginning in July, I will begin transitioning to a strategic/visionary role with Coalfield Development. In tandem with this change in responsibilities, I will become Marshall University’s Vice President of Economic Development and Workforce Development.

This is a cabinet level position at the university, working directly with visionary leader President Brad D. Smith. Importantly, I will remain Coalfield Development’s CEO and Executive President until the end of the year in a period of “overlap” between the two organizations. This Fall– the Board of Directors and I– will conduct a search for the new CEO of Coalfield Development.

Once selected, that new CEO and I will co-pilot Coalfield Development. The CEO will handle day-to-day leadership and stakeholder relationships. I will lead strategy and vision. We will split fundraising responsibilities. This model resembles the CEO/Executive Chair model more prominent in for-profits. We believe it is a patient, effective approach to succession.

This is, of course, a big change.

However, keep in mind the fact that I will be a formal, compensated, leadership presence at Coalfield Development for many more years to come. Coalfield Development is in my soul, and I will continue giving it my very best efforts, even if the focus of those efforts shifts during this transition. As you’ll read below, my responsibilities at Marshall very much align with Coalfield’s vision and mission. Both organizations are strategically aligned around a vision for a new Appalachian economy, as the formal articulation agreement has cemented.

While I founded Coalfield Development, and while I care deeply about its work, I have always viewed this amazing organization as much bigger than me. In fact, if people only associate Coalfield Development with me, then I would have failed as the kind of servant leader I aspire to be. Our strong team has established good systems and strong collaboration making this transition not just a challenge needing mitigated but an opportunity to increase the resilience of the organization.

Since Marshall University President Brad Smith has identified Coalfield Development as a key strategic partner, part of my new job description at Marshall is continued strategic leadership and support for Coalfield Development. This includes selecting and training the future CEO. My other responsibilities at Marshall will include oversight of The Advanced Manufacturing Center (formerly RCBI), Sustainability, Brownfields Assistance Center, and the Alliance for the Economic Development of Southern West Virginia. I will also be on teams developing a new micro-credentialing effort, business development, and regional economic strategy. These are all areas relating to career-long areas of my interests and passions.

In closing, I would like to share some quotes from our Coalfield Board President Kenzie New Walker as well as Board Treasurer Ric MacDowell.

“The transition is a signal that Coalfield Development is strong and ready. Since I have been here there have been so many chapters to our story and some yet untold. We are excited and grateful to Brandon and proud of where he is going and where he has been. We are especially proud of the vision he has carved out over the past nearly 14 years. Coalfield is in a strong position with the strongest board we have ever had. The board is very much excited to work even closer with Marshall University.” Kenzie New Walker, Board President.

“Brandon’s new position at Marshall will help us build and find new strengths in the organization that will impact our whole mission for this region. I strongly believe Brandon’s new role at Marshall University makes sense for Brandon and Coalfield Development. And more importantly, it makes sense to the region we are serving,” Ric MacDowell, Board Treasurer.

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