INHF president transition

By Kerri Sorrell on April 18, 2013 in Blog

Mark Ackelson, president of INHF and president emeritus starting May 1.  Photo by Jessica Rilling.

Mark Ackelson, president of INHF and president emeritus starting May 1.
Photo by Jessica Rilling.

Written by INHF President Mark C. Ackelson

Three years ago, the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation board and staff began to look at anticipated staff leadership transitions.  We didn't know when they would all occur, but we knew that day would come. We began by considering our strengths and challenges, what makes us unique, and what changes to our organization workplace we could expect during leadership transition.  And then we began to prepare. We strengthened our skillsets and shared leadership responsibilities among our staff. We hired new staff and strengthened departments.

Five months ago, I told the board and staff, that we should target April 30th for my transition to another role within INHF as I phase into retirement. The board began a quiet search for my successor and interviewed numerous highly successful people from across the country. As we interviewed, we were reminded that our team at INHF is strong and skilled.  And we discovered the right individual was in our midst all along.

Joe McGovern, our new president starting May 1 and INHF land stewardship director since 1999, is a person of great personal integrity and deep knowledge of and passion for Iowa’s natural heritage; a person we can all trust.

My heart is both sad and soaring. I have been with INHF for over 33 years, serving as president since 1994. I am leaving a leadership role with an organization that I love more than anyone can ever imagine. Because of my love for this job, many times over the last few months I've felt reluctant to step down as president but have never doubted the capacity of INHF to continue to lead and succeed. I look forward to my new role as president emeritus, which will allow me to continue to work on conservation issues.

In many ways I have been blessed to do more than I ever thought possible when I started my conservation career nearly 40 years ago. I am frustrated, however, that I could not have done even more. There is much yet to be done. The INHF team of board, advisors, supporters, staff and volunteers will continue to address the current challenges while charting a course for even greater impact on Iowa’s natural resource protection and restoration. Constitutionally protected sustainable funding, expansion of existing public and private programs and engaging even more citizens in our work are all crucial.

Thank you for the privilege to be of service in such a rewarding career.

Your conservation partner,

Mark C. Ackelson


Look for a full version of Mark’s letter in our spring issue of Iowa Natural Heritage magazine out in late May.

For more information on the president transition, visit our website

Learn about the Mark C. Ackelson Fellowship Fund.

Read more about Joe McGovern, INHF’s third president.

Attend an introduction event for Joe McGovern.