LA GRANDE — Connie Guentert knows she has big shoes to fill as the new executive director of Community Connection of Northeast Oregon.
The outgoing director, Margaret Davidson, was right alongside Guentert as she made the transition into the lead role in the company, a move that became official May 1.
“Margaret has just been a fantastic leader and teacher,” Guentert said. “To be able to follow in those large shoes is a challenge, but also the foundation of having her for all this time, she’s imbued in me those same values and goals that we strive for in our agency.”
Guentert has been a part of Community Connection for 15 years, the last eight as the county manager in Wallowa County.
“Matter of fact, it’s like eight years exactly. May 1 eight years ago I took over as county manager — eight years later, the new executive director,” she said.
Guentert said she has been “inspired” by Davidson, and repeatedly praised her effort fronting the agency, calling her an “invaluable teacher” and a person who leads by example.
Guentert began as a front office assistant in 2007. She also spent time in transportation before moving into her county manager role in 2014. Knowing as many of the ins and outs of CCNO is valuable, she said.
“Learning the program from the ground up and growing up within the agency, it has given me such a well rounded perspective of what this agency does for all the communities that we operate in,” she said. “It is so diverse.”
Guentert said the decision to step into the executive director role is one that required a deep internal look.
“I loved my job as the county manager,” she said. “Did I want to drive to La Grande everyday? Yea, it was a lot of inner reflection. Did I want to take that step and continue on in the wonderful culture and leadership that Margaret has (not only) led by example, but … really infused through our entire agency. It inspired me to step up and have the opportunity to continue the culture, the foundation of our agency, (and) the family of it.”
Guentert will continue to live in Wallowa County, staying in an area she has grown to love, and will make the commute on a daily basis.
”It’s a beautiful drive,” she said. “It’s enjoyable. It’s time to reflect on what you got going on in the day. When you’re home, you’re present for your family. It also keeps my feet in that neck of the woods, also. I’ve loved raising my family there and living there. It’s home.”
Guentert said she doesn’t plan to make any alterations to the way Davidson operated CCNO, instead wanting to continue the legacy the longtime executive director built.
“I am definitely going to operate it the same way she has,” she said. “Being present in the future, what our counties need, that is why we’re here. We’re here to serve people.”
Guentert also said she hopes Community Connection Wallowa County names her by mid-May.