An unfortunate outcome

It’s a shame Barbara Vlamis refused to share directorship of BEC. Her advocacy skills will be missed.

The Butte Environmental Council is one of the most respected organizations of its kind in Northern California, if not the entire state, thanks in large measure to the tireless work of Barbara Vlamis. Throughout her 17 years as BEC’s executive director, she was the driver behind the group’s fearless advocacy on behalf of wildlife, wild lands and protecting North State water.

But 17 years is a long time to remain in any job, much less one as challenging and dynamic—and prone to growth—as Vlamis’. As Leslie Layton reported in the CN&R last week, many people who worked with Vlamis believed she was over overworked, and apparently she had complained of such to members of the BEC Board of Directors.

The board’s decision to split her position, creating a separate co-director to handle day-to-day management and the group’s educational and outreach functions, while leaving her in charge of advocacy, made sense. It would have allowed her to do what she does best while relieving her of much of the managerial work that led to her burnout.

And it would have solved another problem. To a certain extent Vlamis had become synonymous with BEC and the agency with her in the public’s mind. Clearly that close identification had become troublesome to board members. As former BEC Director Rex Stromness states in a letter in this issue, “BEC is and must be more than Barbara Vlamis.”

Unfortunately, Vlamis apparently saw the organizational change as a demotion and refused to quit, forcing the board to fire her. That’s a shame. We hope she reconsiders. If not, we hope another environmental group makes use of her exceptional skills, knowledge and passion for the work, and we thank her for her many contributions as executive director of the Butte Environmental Council.