In order to balance its annual budget, the Valley Humane Society board of directors said it has made the tough decision to cut its executive director position.
David Stegman, who has been the director of the nonprofit since 2003 earning a salary reportedly at $75,000, is serving out his last days on the job this week. A message left for Stegman earlier Wednesday has not been returned.
Board members stressed that the decision to eliminate Stegman, made Tuesday, wasn't easy and had been considered for some time.
"It's heart-wrenching because I consider David a very personal friend and it's a sad day for us in that sense," board member Phillip Vermont said.
"The decision was purely financial," he added. "We need to balance our budget and we've seen our donations drop 20-25 percent from private donations, so our forecast for the rest of the year is we'd lose money."
While the nonprofit organization is financially sound, the board had been reviewing finances for several months. Board president Cindy Vallar said the operating budget stands at roughly $500,000. The loss of the executive director position will reportedly save Valley Humane $75,000. Board member Jeanie Reitzell said Stegman received a generous severance package.
"It's a decision we've been discussing for probably six months," Vermont said. "We made major cuts last year and it just wasn't enough."
While the position is going away for now, it's possible it could be reinstated down the road once the economy picks up again.
"(Stegman) was leading us toward building a new building and capital campaigns and all the things that in this economy aren't working," Vermont said, adding that Valley Humane is in a similar position as other nonprofits with declining donations such as Shepherd's Gate and Hope Hospice.
A campaign to raise funds to build a permanent facility is now on hold, but Vallar said donations are still holding somewhat strong and that money will keep programs going, especially as demand for them grows in the current financial situation. Those include: AniMeals, which provides free food and pet supplies to low-income families, pet adoption, pet surrender, Keeler's Kids (emphasizing the commitment of pet ownership), Critter Camp (teaching the responsibility and rewards of pet ownership), pet therapy at hospitals and care facilities, the Just Like New Fund to help cover one-time pet emergency costs, Paws To Read with the Pleasanton Public Library to promote literacy and a love of animals, a Hope Hospice partnership offering guidance for patients' pet issues and volunteers to care for pets in-home, and Daisey's Gift of Life (pet resuscitation kits for local fire districts).
Under Stegman's leadership, the humane society relocated to a modular facility off Stanley Boulevard on Nevada Street, completed a strategic realignment and created a new mission, branding and communication plans around supporting people and pets. Vallar said the nonprofit has Stegman to thank for his service over the past six years in putting Valley Humane on a clear path to community service and secure financial footing.
General Manager Wendy McNelley will oversee the leadership of operations, programs and events. Additional duties will be absorbed by staff (three part-time and two full-time workers) and roughly 200 volunteers who help in various capacities.