The Sierra Club's leadership conflict that isn't [Blowback]
Robin Mann and Larry Fahn respond to The Times' Nov. 19 article, "Sierra Club leader departs amid discontent over group's direction." Mann is the president of the Sierra Club's board of directors; Fahn is a board member and the group's past president.
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The Times mis-characterizes Carl Pope's continuing transition from deep involvement in the Sierra Club to a more limited role as a trusted adviser and fundraiser. Contrary to the article's premise of abrupt change amid tumult, this years-long transition has been remarkably graceful, and as a result, the Sierra Club is bigger, stronger and more effective than it has ever been.
Pope notified the club's board in mid-2008 of his intention to retire from a hugely demanding job after 16 years of exemplary service. At age 65, he had almost 40 years as a club employee and was largely responsible for many of its achievements during those years. The board conducted a comprehensive year-long executive search and ultimately selected a superlative candidate as its new executive director.
Michael Brune was offered the job in early 2010 and took the reins in March 2010. Brune and the board asked Pope to remain in a senior advisory post as chairman so that he could help introduce the club's new leader to major donors, key allies, elected officials and the many hundreds of volunteer leaders around the U.S., and ensure a smooth transition. Pope graciously accepted and fulfilled that transitional role with sage professionalism for almost two years.
Although he is now leaving the club's full-time employ as planned, Pope will continue to raise money for the Sierra Club's 2012 political program. He will also provide other advisory services in a consultant role. This fact alone might have made The Times question its story's dramatic but unfounded theme.
Like most leaders, Pope and Brune have their own styles and approaches. But Pope's departure had nothing to do with the club's decision to develop relationships with green businesses or any of the inevitable debates that are part of the lifeblood of a democratic grassroots organization. With Brune building on the group's 120-year legacy -- a legacy Pope was instrumental in advancing -- the Sierra Club's 1.4 million members and supporters continue not only to enjoy, explore and protect wild places, but we continue to make history with our unprecedented success in confronting the coal, oil and gas industries' domination of our nation's politics and economy while helping to move the country to green energy prosperity.
-- Robin Mann and Larry Fahn
Photo: Carl Pope, the leader of the Sierra Club, is stepping down. Credit: David Butow / For The Times