The La Plata County Humane Society will not actively look for a new executive director after its former head of operations resigned suddenly in November.
“Right now, we are just going to work with what we have,” said board president Susan Riches, “until we decide exactly what we want to do and what direction we want to take.”
Michelle Featheringill, who had served as executive director of the La Plata County Humane Society for 2½ years, abruptly resigned Nov. 16.
Featheringill said this week that personnel on the Board of Directors changed so drastically from when she was first hired that she and the current board no longer shared the same vision for the animal shelter.
“While it was no longer a good fit between myself and the board, I certainly wish the organization nothing but success,” Featheringill said. “I think we all know the mission of the Humane Society is truly a good one.”
For years, the Humane Society operated without an executive director, letting its four departments – Animal Services, Animal Protection, the Thrift Store and the medical department – operate independently.
Featheringill said she was able to take the Humane Society out of the red and into the black during her first full year on the job.
“We did an awful lot of financial fine-tuning within the four departments,” she said.
And, Featheringill said she made a concerted effort to have a larger presence in the community. Emergency events, like the 416 and Lightner Creek fires, where the Humane Society sheltered evacuated animals, further put the organization in the spotlight.
“I think that the community became a bit more aware of all the good things that the Humane Society does, not just for animals, but people in the community as well,” she said.
Featheringill said when she was originally hired, the board at the time wanted her to seek new revenue sources. This was of particular importance as its main revenue driver, the thrift store, faced increasing competition, especially with the opening of Goodwill.
“New revenue streams, I feel, are of paramount importance for the financial viability of the organization,” she said.
Featheringill declined to get into the specifics, but she said she disagreed with the current board on how to move forward with the organization. She resigned Nov. 16, which took effect immediately.
“It was a very, very difficult decision,” she said.
Riches also declined to talk about the specifics that led to Featheringill’s resignation.
Riches said the Humane Society must focus on its most pressing needs, most notably, repairs on an old building and the general cost of operation.
“We’re financially comfortable,” she said. “We just need to put our minds on what’s going to be best for the society as a whole and the way it functions, and that’s going to take a lot of thought.”
Riches said that in the meantime, it’s business as usual at Durango’s busiest animal shelter.
“We’ve got a very good staff, so we’re not hurting in terms of having people fill in the various jobs that need to be done,” she said. “We just need a little bit of time to figure out what we need. But we’re up and running”