Pictured: Lynn Ann Bethel (Photo courtesy IMACA)/
It took a while, but if you ask the staff at the Bishop-based Inyo Mono Advocates for Community Action, Inc., the wait to find new Executive Director Lynn Ann Bethel was worth it.
Bethel relocated from the East Coast, Massachusetts specifically, and signed her contract on Sept. 5, ending a search that lasted more than one year. She will ultimately replace outgoing IMACA Executive Director Daniel Steinhagen.
Steinhagen has served as IMACA’s Executive Director for almost 20 years, and announced plans to retire in June 2011, but opted to wait until just the right candidate came along, even if that meant he had to put off his retirement a little longer than he might have originally wanted. He is credited with shepherding IMACA through some of its early years, establishing services and program funding, and noted for a keen knowledge of federal community action funding statutes.
IMACA provides various community services, such as food and garden assistance, home energy assistance, weatherization, wood stove replacement, housing, child care, youth employment and other programs to residents from Coleville to Olancha, advocating for and assisting low-income residents.
Housing is a particularly noteworthy part of IMACA’s program lineup. IMACA owns and operates low-income housing in both Mammoth Lakes and Bishop, including the Valley Apartments for low-income seniors, the Glass Mountain Apartments, a 25-unit low-income complex, and a Housing Choice Voucher Program, known as “Section 8,” which subsidizes rent for eligible residents.
The Section 8 program is a form of federal rent subsidy that assists participating low-income households with monthly rental payments. The voucher allows participating households to rent housing that meets their needs. The tenant pays a portion of the rent based upon income and family composition, and the Housing and Urban Development program pays the rest.
According to Bethel, the Section 8 program is tied to income eligibility, and does require the individual to prove they are a legal resident of the United States.
New England, California, beyond
How did a Massachusetts girl find her way out here? “I am a life-long New Englander and was working predominantly in Massachusetts,” she related. “Both of my children are in college. My daughter will be completing her undergraduate education in December with a dual degree in elementary education from Wheelock College and my son is a freshman at the Art Institute of Boston. With my children venturing out on their own it was my time to venture out, as well.”
Bethel said she’s visited the area many times before. “I enjoy the mountains and lakes; this is a such a beautiful part of the country,” she said. “I was also so very excited to see my first bear a couple of weeks ago at Lake Mary!”
How does Bethel see the difference between how government operates with respect to community action back in Massachusetts versus California?
“One of the big differences between Massachusetts and California is the system of government. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts does not operate with a county-system of government. Each of the 351 cities and towns has its own elected policy makers, health agents and boards of health. It has something to do with tea, Boston Harbor and independence,” she quipped. “Working for state government in Massachusetts, I had statewide responsibilities working with and providing assistance to the local communities, many in what would be considered rural areas.”
Bethel said collaboration is the key to being creative in how some programs are approached in these tough budget times. “Collaboration is key and that includes working with all sectors of the community including the private sector. My professional background has focused on promoting health, expanding access for vulnerable populations and creative workforce development. With the implementation of health reform, the federal government and states are looking at ways to improve health by looking at all factors that impact someone’s health, not just the ‘usual suspects.’ These other factors, the social determinants of health, include housing, the environment, food, etc. These are all areas that IMACA has expertise in.”
She added that partnering with organizations, agencies, institutions and businesses that support the health and welfare of our community and especially the most vulnerable — low income, seniors and the developmentally disabled — will not only provide a holistic approach to serving Inyo and Mono residents, but would also serve to sustain and expand new programming and attract new resources.
It didn’t take her long to assess some of the major geographic and demographic hurdles IMACA has to clear. “I have noticed in my first month as Executive Director, that even with the organization’s past best efforts, there are certain areas of both counties that remain underserved. One of my challenges is to ensure that all residents in need see IMACA as a credible and effective support system ‘safety net’ that serves their needs in an efficient and dignified manner.”
Worth the wait
Sheet: It took a while to find someone who hit all the right notes. What do you think made you attractive? What did you bring to the table in terms of qualifications, experience and ideas that resonated with IMACA’s needs in Inyo and Mono counties?
Bethel: “My passion for helping the underserved, and a 30-year background in health and human services. A proven record of making a difference, developing and implementing successful, credible programming, grant writing experience, as well as leadership experience with state and national public health organizations.”
IMACA Administration Services Manager Jill Paydon agreed. “Lynn’s combination of extensive public service, previous experience with state, local and regional entities and her ability to work with a wide variety of people were what made IMACA’s Search Committee believe she could do the job,” she commented.