By Robb Murray
---- — MANKATO — Laura Bowman was happy as the president of the Mankato Area United Way.
But that doesn't mean she wasn't open to a new opportunity.
“I wasn't out there looking to leave,” Bowman said. “But this opportunity presented itself.”
Bowman announced Wednesday she's leaving the Mankato United Way to take the job as CEO of the Olmsted County United Way, which serves Rochester. It's a move to a bigger community and bigger United Way for Bowman, who came to the Mankato United Way seven years ago after working as director of community impact at the Sioux Falls United Way.
The move to Mankato was a move home for Bowman, who grew up in Cleveland. When she accepted the Mankato job (which meant a return to a place where she'd interned while in college), she told The Free Press it would be good to come home.
“When I worked in Mankato, I knew that if there was an opportunity to come back, I would,” she'd said back in 2006.
Staying close to home, she said, factored into her decision to accept the Rochester job.
“It's still just 80 miles from home,” she said.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Greater Mankato Area United Way Board Chairwoman Shannon Gullickson said Bowman's impact on the community has been significant.
“I’ve been impressed with her leadership on so many different levels: Mentoring and developing staff members, advocating for our agency partners, identifying the need for new community initiatives and putting a plan in place to bring them to fruition. She has brought a strong focus on the United Way’s goals and mission, led hugely successful campaigns in spite of the recession and meaningfully engaged hundreds of volunteers in the mission of the United Way. We will certainly miss her, and I wish her well as she continues to challenge herself in her career and transition her family to a new community.”
Gullickson said the Greater Mankato United Way board of directors has assembled a selection committee to begin the task of finding Bowman's successor. She said the job is an attractive one, and one that will likely attract many applicants.
She predicts the job will attract local nonprofit leaders as well as applicants from outside the area.
"We plan on making this a wide search, but also one involving community and stakeholders with the United Way," Gullickson said. "We think our community has a lot to offer at this time. It's a good time to bring someone in from the outside if that's what we end up doing."
Bowman said she's proud of the relationships she's built, not only with donors but with community partners as well.
She said the First Steps Initiative — a partnership with Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato, the Mankato Clinic and Blue Earth County that identifies families who could benefit from parenting skills education — is among her biggest achievements as president. She also praised her staff, calling them "second to none."
She also said she's excited to head into the unknown and take on new challenges.
"I love building new relationships," she said.