Passing the torch at a place as passionate as ARF is always an exciting time! The future of our mission is in good hands with Susan Lee Vick, the new Chief Executive Officer, joining the team with a commitment to advancing the human-animal bond and eagerness to lead ARF into our next chapter.
Tell us about the animals in your life.
My first memory — I’d have been barely 3 years old — is clinging to the neck of my family’s infinitely patient and gentle Boxer mix, Goldie. The memory is tangible — one of warm, furry, heart pulsing, softly breathing, occasionally slurping unconditional love.
In the years since Goldie, I’ve shared life with many other beloved dogs and cats (remembering you, little black Piewacket). Raising a Canine Companions service dog and returning him to be matched with a Veteran of the war in Afghanistan stand out as two joyful, painful-with-purpose years shared with a big-hearted Golden and Labrador Retriever mix.
My two current pups, Sophie and Jax, are always up for fun, quick-to-offer kisses and cuddles, and, of course, are superb listeners (ask me where I get my best ideas). Last month, my life was further blessed by the addition of darling ARF grandcat Figaro, formally known as Spearmint. He was adopted by my daughter who lives in Oakland, which is to say, close enough for regular kitty fixes!
We heard you described ARF as a magical place. Could you share with us what makes ARF so special to you?
My spirit soars strolling through ARF’s corridors past condos of adorable animals and the people busily at work to help those animals find loving homes. I had an almost mystical sense of “coming home” the moment I walked onto ARF’s campus — as if I’d always known this place and the people and animals I met that day. In hindsight, I attribute that sense of recognition to the call I feel to ARF’s mission and the bond I share with everyone also called to it. In service to People Rescuing Animals … Animals Rescuing People®, we are family, ARF is home, and that to me is magic!
What do you feel are ARF’s biggest strengths right now?
ARF’s biggest strengths are the power of our dual mission, the dedication of our people, our commitment to excellence, and our virtually unlimited opportunity to serve.
Why did you decide to become CEO of ARF?
As a Bay Area-based, cause-driven business and nonprofit leader passionate about both the human-animal bond and advancing worthy missions, this role at this moment in ARF’s history is a perfect fit for me.
Leading ARF is just the best job in the world. It means serving alongside extraordinary people moved to give their love and care, energy and expertise, time, talent, and treasure to helping animals and people find and delight one another. What could be better?
As Elena Bicker transitions into retirement, what has stood out to you the most while working together?
Elena’s limitless dedication to and knowledge of ARF — along with her creativity, generosity of spirit, and great sense of fun — have made our transition a pleasure. Working with her inspires me to guard and grow the flame of leadership she passed to me. Her wisdom is a valuable resource.
What are your top priorities for 2023?
I’m focused on honoring everything that’s wonderful about ARF and expanding our impact locally, regionally, and nationally. This means creating new ways to engage, celebrate, and serve our treasured volunteers, staff, adopters, donors, and partners; expanding our community outreach; and building new systems to bring our lifesaving, life-changing programs to more pets and people in Contra Costa County, California, and beyond.
In short, 2023 promises to be a thrilling and fulfilling year!