The Friends of the Shiawassee River has selected Kirk Riley as its next executive director. Riley will succeed Lorraine Austin, who is retiring at the end of June, after many years of service with the Friends and, collectively, over four years leading the organization.
Riley brings more than 20 years of experience to the Friends, most recently as executive director of ITEC-Lansing and deputy director of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs. He has degrees in developmental biology and resource economics from Michigan State University, and brings with him skills in nonprofit operations and fundraising.
“I am excited at the opportunity to join with the many Friends (and friends) of the Shiawassee River – staff, board members, volunteers, and the entire community – in protecting the river and engaging in projects that support the health of the Shiawassee River watershed,” said Riley. “The Friends serves as a rallying point for this area, hosting river cleanups, building awareness of the threats to the watershed, and offering recreational opportunities. It is an honor to help lead this important work in a time of energizing organizational growth.”
Austin’s announcement that she would be retiring was made back in February, primarily due to the need for a full-time executive director to orchestrate the many projects in which the organization is involved.
“I have truly loved my work with the Friends and will miss so many people and experiences,” said Austin. “However, as a part-time employee, I realized that with the many new opportunities on the horizon, as well as our abundance of on-going programs, we really needed someone who was able to dedicate more hours to enable the Friends grow and prosper. We were lucky enough to find someone like Kirk with the experience and drive to move us forward.”
Friends’ board president, Nick Tereck, echoes Austin’s thoughts.
“We are very sad to see Lorraine go, as she has championed the mission of the Friends for quite some time,” said Tereck. “Her passion and dedication for this organization is unparalleled and she will be missed. Lorraine has taken the Friends of the Shiawassee from an organization that was doing great work needing only part-time staff, to growing an organization so robust that it requires full-time leadership and management. She retires now, leaving a legacy to be proud of.”
“Kirk is a positive and energetic individual,” Tereck continued. “His warmth, collegial style, practical approach to problem solving, and passion for our work is impressive. The board is excited to work with Kirk and is confident that the Friends will be well positioned to thrive in the years to come under his guidance.”
As executive director, Riley will work to ensure the organization can continue to serve as a trusted resource for all things related to the river. One of his first acts as director will be to oversee the Friends’ annual River Cleanup scheduled for July 24th – 31st – the longest running event in the organization’s history. Individuals and groups can register to clean a section of the river of their choosing any day during the week-long timespan. Over 150 volunteers participated in the event in 2020.
The most up-to-date information on this and other Friends’ endeavors may be found on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/FOSRiver/ or website at www.shiawasseeriver.org.