Great Lakes Commission now accepting applications for Executive Director

Dec 22, 2017 | News and Announcements

The Great Lakes Commission is seeking candidates for the position of Executive Director. Reporting to the Commission’s 10-member Board of Directors, the Executive Director has overall responsibility for strategic planning, staff management, program development and policy coordination and advocacy. The successful candidate must be equipped and capable to ensure the Commission is an objective, science-based source of information for its members, promoting informed policy decisions and serving as an effective advocate for the interests of the binational Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River region.

About the Great Lakes Commission

The Great Lakes Commission is a nonpartisan, interstate compact agency established in 1955 under U.S. state and federal law and dedicated to promoting a strong economy, healthy environment and high quality of life for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River region and its residents. The Great Lakes Commission represents, advises and assists its member states and provinces by fostering dialogue, developing consensus, facilitating collaboration and speaking with a unified voice to advance collective interests and responsibilities to promote economic prosperity and environmental protection and to achieve the balanced and sustainable use of Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River basin water resources.

Its membership consists of three to five delegates (Commissioners) from each member jurisdiction, including state legislators, senior agency officials, and governors’ appointees from the eight Great Lakes states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin). Associate membership for Ontario and Québec was established through the signing of a “Declaration of Partnership.” The premiers of those provinces also appoint up to five delegates (Associate Commissioners). The Commission maintains a formal Observer program for U.S. and Canadian partners that includes federal agencies, tribal authorities, binational organizations and other regional interests.

The Commission currently has 29 fulltime staff and a rotating number of research fellows and interns. The Commission offices are in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The work of the Commission is guided by a strategic plan updated in 2016. . The strategic plan focuses on: water quality, water management and infrastructure, commercial navigation, economic development and waterfront community revitalization, coastal conservation and habitat restoration, aquatic invasive species prevention and control, and information management and blue accounting.

The Commission had a FY 2017 annual budget of $18.2M with the majority derived from grants and contracts. Approximately 80% of the current year’s budget (2018) consists of pass through grants, with the Commission serving as the fiscal agent.


The Executive Director is the chief executive officer providing organizational leadership and vision. The Executive Director is responsible for the following areas:

Leadership & Management: The Executive Director provides vision and leadership to guide organizational growth and development. This includes ensuring the implementation and updating of the strategic plan and accounting to the board on progress and navigating any course corrections.  The Executive Director is an ex-officio member of the Board of Directors and of all committees, task forces and panels. Externally, the Commission serves as an honest broker, and the Executive Director helps facilitate consensus among interests, that at times conflict.

Strategic Communications & Policy Development: The Executive Director serves as primary spokesperson for the Commission. This chief executive position represents the Commission at regional, national and international levels, including serving as a liaison with U.S. and Canadian elected officials, policymakers, agencies/organizations, academia and the private sector. The Executive Director, with staff support and board input, prepares and presents congressional testimony and related policy positions of the Commission.

Operations, Financial Management & Fundraising: The Executive Director oversees and manages the professional staff and is involved in performance evaluations and staff recruitment. Budget development, financial reporting, and internal auditing are under the supervision of the Executive Director, as is program development and fundraising.

Experience Requirements:

The Commission Board seeks a highly motivated and natural leader with the gravitas and diplomacy required to develop, advocate and implement critical Great Lakes programs and policies. By extension, the ideal candidate will have a successful history of working with elected officials, policymakers, scientists, business and industry leaders and opinion leaders at all levels of government and the private sector. Strong candidates will have demonstrated skills in policy research and development as well as program implementation, including a thorough understanding of governance systems and advocacy approaches in the United States. Working knowledge of sustainable development principles and environment/economy linkages will be a critical attribute. Outstanding verbal and written communications skills are central to this position.

Successful candidates will have the proven ability to build consensus and, where needed, the confidence and skill to mediate conflict and resolve issues between members and constituents. This includes the ability to build trust with the diverse interests of the Great Lakes Commission, including with its staff, commissioners, outside partners and other stakeholders.

Proven organizational management skills are critical, including: the ability to manage finances for, and support development of, a nonprofit governmental organization; familiarity with budgeting and audit protocols; federal, state, private sector and foundation project proposal requests; and project reporting requirements. Ability to coordinate multiple projects and thrive in a complex organizational setting is a necessary skill.

Education and Experience:

B.A. in relevant field is required. Master’s, J.D. or Ph.D. degree with an educational background in an area related to public policy and management, regional planning, economic development, environmental protection and/or natural resources development and management is preferred.

Proven experience and/or training in consensus building, mediation and conflict resolution.

Proven experience with organizational management and oversight.

Knowledge of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Region; its institutions, governance structure and major federal, state and provincial policies and programs is advantageous, but not a requirement.

Application Process

The Great Lakes Commission is an Equal Opportunity Employer. It is the policy of the Commission that no person shall be discriminated against based on race, gender, color, religion, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, handicap or prior military service status. Interested parties are encouraged to apply early, as applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis.

To apply, please submit:

1) Cover letter

2) Detailed resume

Please email to the following address: [email protected]. Please put only your name in the subject line.

The Commission has retained Sheila Leahy, of SAL Consulting, Inc., to manage this search and support the Search Committee. Confidentiality will be maintained for all applicants and those making inquiries. Sheila can be reached in confidence at [email protected].

The Great Lakes Commission, led by chairman John Linc Stine, commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, is an interstate compact agency established under state and U.S. federal law and dedicated to promoting a strong economy, healthy environment and high quality of life for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region and its residents. The Commission consists of governors’ appointees, state legislators, and agency officials from its eight member states. Associate membership for Ontario and Québec was established through the signing of a “Declaration of Partnership.” The Commission maintains a formal Observer program involving U.S. and Canadian federal agencies, tribal authorities, binational agencies and other regional interests. The Commission offices are located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Learn more at


For media inquiries, please contact Beth Wanamaker, [email protected].

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