California Lawyers Association

Saying Goodbye With Gratitude

August 2021

By Ona Alston Dosunmu
C.E.O. & Executive Director

As I sit in my apartment among boxes to pack, clothes to give away, and a few pieces of furniture that will not be making the journey across the country, the reality that I’m about to say goodbye to my CLA family is beginning to sink in. While it hasn’t always been easy, the adventure has certainly been rewarding.

When the legislature split the bar in California, CLA experienced the organizational equivalent of being kicked out of the house with nothing but the clothes on its back. In 2018, we were a brand-new association comprised of sections—some of which have been around for nearly half a century—and many expected CLA to operate like we had been around for decades.

As I look back on all that we, as a community of member leaders and bar association professionals, have accomplished, I couldn’t be prouder. To use another analogy, for a while we were simultaneously trying to build and fly the CLA plane. Today, we are off the ground and poised to soar. I leave you with a structure that will invite participation and engagement as well as support the long-term sustainability of the association. 

In the very near future, we will have an association management system in place to facilitate communication and a better experience for our members as well as to capture data to support organizational decisions. And we are well on our way to adopting the association’s first-ever strategic plan. CLA’s course is set and we’re at our cruising altitude. 

None of this would have been possible but for the extraordinary member leaders who worked tirelessly to see CLA through its first few formative years. To CLA’s inaugural President and Board Chair—Heather Rosing and Jim Hill; to subsequent Chairs with whom I’ve had the pleasure to serve—Chip Wilkins and Betty Williams; and, of course, to current President Emilio Varanini, thank you. To the CLA officers who served alongside these leaders, to the committee and section chairs and Board Representatives, thank you. 

Most of all, I owe a priceless debt of gratitude to the phenomenal professional team—particularly Jen Navarro and the senior executive team comprised of: Tej Baath, Director of Membership and Marketing; Saul Bercovitch, Director of Governmental Affairs; Linda Geery, CFO; Tricia Horan, Associate Executive Director for Education and Operations; and Ellen Miller, Associate Executive Director for Initiatives and External Relations. Each of these phenomenal individuals have worked tirelessly to make CLA the best organization it can possibly be. CLA couldn’t have done it without you! I will be cheering for you and watching with interest as you take CLA to ever greater heights. 

Tricia Horan and Ellen Miller have graciously agreed to step up and serve as Co-Interim Executive Directors until the Board identifies and hires my successor. CLA couldn’t be in better hands!

Getting to know the talented, dedicated, creative and committed CLA members has been one of the highlights of my professional career. CLA is a special organization with tremendous potential—I leave you with the challenge to realize that potential.

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