After a week off, she will start her new position as CEO and president of the Three Valleys Community Foundation. Bowers steps in for retired Pleasanton City Manager Nelson Fialho who has served in an interim role since February. The foundation, encompassing the Tri-Valley area of five cities in two counties, launched in November 2021.
It will be quite a change for Bowers who was the dean of school chiefs in Alameda County overseeing about 1,400 employees. In her new role, she will have one employee—herself.
‘I knew that I wanted to do something good and I wanted to stay local in the region and it was almost fortuitous that this came along, or that I became aware of it,” she said during a Zoom call. “I became aware of it almost as I was contemplating my next step.”
She said Fialho has laid a solid foundation with policies and procedures. Her challenge will be to grow it at a sustainable rate and build a group of donors who are interested in making a difference where they live. The foundation organizers researched community foundations and learned that where there’s a vibrant, place-based foundation, it enhanced the non-profits with specific missions in that area.
Given their backgrounds in organizations funded by taxpayers, leaders are accustomed to being transparent financially and in governance. Bowers plans to bring that same approach to the foundation—an approach that will be different for the private sector members of the board and advisory board. She frankly says it’s all she knows.
The Tri-Valley has built a unique ecosystem over the last 25 years. When it’s time to lobby Washington D.C., mayors from five cities in two counties take forward the same agenda to the congressional decision-makers and their staffs. That foundation coupled with 10 years of work by the Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group has set the stage for the foundation to serve the same geography.
Bowers brought a hands-on approach to her district leadership and has plenty of experience in reaching out and serving poorer children and their families. She started the program to serve children of migrant workers and drove the vaccination program in Livermore that resulted in 39 clinics with thousands getting the Covid-19 vaccine. She had to demonstrate to county officials that there were people living in poverty in Livermore and they could not get to clinics at the fairgrounds in Pleasanton or to the Oakland Coliseum. Her hands-on approach included making many calls to parents to set up appointments because she wanted to get kids back in the classroom.
Moving forward with the foundation, she sees a niche as the “matchmaker” that can help charitably inclined people to put their dollars where their passions are in the valley. She recognizes the tension between creating some “fast wins” and building strategically around a plan for the foundation to flourish over time. That will include building an endowment fund that will benefit the valley in perpetuity.
Since her new position was announced last Friday, Bowers said she’s received about 20 phone calls asking how they can help. That’s been a heartwarming response as she embarks upon a steep learning curve to learn the foundation world. She knows Livermore very well and has worked with leaders in Pleasanton and Dublin. The San Ramon Valley will be a new area for her.
She summed it up,” I always try to distill it into a couple of things. And so get it down to: give, grant, grow. Those are like the three things that we want to make happen.”