Congratulations for a job well done to Curt Spalding of Save The Bay
Sunday evening I attended the clambake for Curt Spalding, the recently departed Executive Director of Save The Bay. (An indoor clambake… it had been raining all weekend).
I worked at Save The Bay from late 1990 to late 1995. I started as Director of Development and Marketing right after Curt was appointed the permanent Executive Director (I think I was his first hire). Curt had risen through the ranks from program director to the? interim ex to its permanent one.
Back then, Save The Bay was housed in a dingy former bank building near the RI state house, with no water in sight except for the stormwater when it rained. It had the feel of a political campaign office — lots of energy, noise, and colleagues to bounce ideas off. You could get a weiner next door at the New York System? (a totally RI phenomenon), but I think only Anne and I from the staff dared to do that.
That time had some things in common with this one.? The winds of war were soon to blow as the US declared its first war with Iraq. The economy was about to go into a long recession. Within a few months, an overly ambitious budget and a deepening financial crisis led to budget cuts. Staff decided to take furloughs, rather than laying anyone off.
But Save The Bay wouldn’t let the economy stop us from our work. A new strategic planning effort led to the birth of an on-the-water environmental advocacy Narragansett BayKeeper and an absolutely fabulous citizen monitoring program that encompassed water quality, birds, marine mammals and more (largely due to the great vision of my dear friend Wenley Ferguson). We built new relationships with old friends and turned old enemies into friends. I helped craft the Environmental Federation of New England which eventually became EarthShare of New England.
Save The Bay landed its first grant for habitat restoration as part of the Restore America’s Estuaries program initiated by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Curt and I had an excellent work partnership which eventually led to my appointment as Deputy Director. We instituted annual department wide business planning. Together we created a workplace that embraced family life… even though everyone still worked way too much. We celebrated new staff babies (including Curt’s Hannah and Henry). Staff longevity grew, though new interns and new spirit kept us fresh.
Speaking of the staff, they were just extraordinary, some of the best people I’ve worked with. The board was top notch and I cherish the lasting friendships started in those days.
After I was lured away in 1995 to help City Year RI set up its development department, Curt, staff and board went on to some truly amazing accomplishments.? The? culmination of Curt’s tenure was the successful completion of an $11 million Explore the Bay Campaign, an education program that reaches 25,000 children a year, and the completion of the Save The Bay Center.
The Save The Bay Center is a state-of-the-art green building on the reclaimed urban shores of Narragansett Bay in what was once a municipal dump. It is a testimony both to Curt’s work at Save The Bay and to the extraordinary power of an energized citizenry that believes in protecting its natural resources. (The Center is also one of the best and now most popular meeting spaces that I now get to work in from time to time … a wall of windows on the Bay side, a gorgeous spot, big spaces, room to hang flip charts… as Save The Bay makes it available to nonprofits for a reasonable rental fee).
Save The Bay has started the “H. Curtis Spalding Fund for Program & Policy” to honor his legacy. You might want to give.
My best wishes to Curt for the next steps he takes. Good sailing.