Smith resigns as Cascade/WA Bikes Executive Director

Photo of Smith with Cascade staff.

Smith (right), from his farewell letter.

Richard Smith has resigned after nearly three years as Executive Director of Cascade Bicycle Club and Washington Bikes.

The news comes as the sister organizations are operating with half their usual staff and cancelled nearly all their major events this year due to the outbreak.

Before Smith joined as ED in September 2017, the organizations went nine months without an ED, choosing instead to have top-level staff lead together. This time, Technology Manager Christopher Shainin will serve as Interim ED while the Board and leadership staff develop a new strategic plan and conduct a search for a new ED. That process is expected to take six to eight months.

Shainin is currently the Governance Chair of Inspire Washington and has a long history of holding non-profit leadership roles. He will lead the club through a very unusual period in their 50-year history. This will be the first year without the Seattle to Portland Classic since the initial 1979 event that launched Cascade Bicycle Club (though the second event was altered by the eruption of Mount St. Helens).

Below is Smith’s letter announcing his departure, effective last Friday:

Cascade Bicycle Club is celebrating 50 years this year.  We are also re-imagining our role in the Community with a fresh Vision, Mission and Values and we exited 2019 with the strongest team and best financial position in years, a supportive Board, and a wonderful community of Partners, Donors, and Volunteers.

At the start of this year I felt it was the right time to move on and we have been working with the Board and Leadership Team on a smooth transition and hiring plan.  We are now at that point and it’s the right time to make this news more public.  

Though COVID-19 has drastically changed the world as we know it, we made some very tough decisions in March that included furloughing staff and cutting expenses. These decisions will give us the ability to retool our work and deliver on Cascade’s mission. I am confident that Cascade will survive this pandemic and come out stronger than ever.

The time I have spent at Cascade has been incredibly fulfilling, both personally and professionally, and the relationships I have developed have been enriching.  I am proud of our many achievements during this time:

  • The largest bicycle event ever in Washington state, the Tunnel Ride Opening with nearly 13,000 participants

  • The Guinness World Record for the most people on an e-bike ride

  • The most successful fundraising events in our history and the introduction of a fall auction event that surpassed expectations

  • Growing partnerships with the local business community, who support bicycling as a tool for liberation, health, and the environment

  • The introduction of a middle school bicycle program with Seattle Public Schools and SeattleDOT

  • Recognition that the Major Taylor Project is “empowering youth through bicycling”

  • Policy and Advocacy wins across the state, including investments in safe bicycling infrastructure and trails, e-bike legislation, the vulnerable user/safe passing law, and the “safety stop” that allows bicyclists to treat stop signs as a yield in most circumstances.

I have immense confidence in the Board and Leadership Team. Our transition plan is in place to ensure continuity and stability, including assigning current Technology Manager Christopher Shainin as interim Executive Director who will apply his 20+ years of experience leading various local nonprofits to the next stage of strategic planning.

Cascade Bicycle Club and Washington Bikes will continue to grow with the support of the broad community.  I want to thank everyone involved for their hard work and dedication to ‘improving lives through bicycling’.

Sincerely,

Richard Smith

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5 Responses to Smith resigns as Cascade/WA Bikes Executive Director

  1. GlenBikes says:

    I’ve been less intimately involved in Cascade the past few years so maybe I just have a distorted impression of what it was like before, but it seemed like the entire time Smith was ED, he was completely out of sight. I never heard anything from or about him.

    I presumed he was good at raising money from big donors or something which got him hired, but it seemed strange for an org that big to hire an ED who would keep such a low profile.

  2. Jort says:

    I know it’s a lot to ask for a mega-bucks low-risk non-profit like Cascade, but I’ve always been disappointed in their avoidance of direct action protest methods. I know that the “Seattle Cycling Community” is deeply opposed to confrontation and believes that passive begging for small, pittance allowances is preferable, but I’d love to see a significantly more aggressive stance against Seattle’s planet- and person-killing car culture, and less baby boomer compromises for parking spaces, “neighborhood greenways” and the preservation of our stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid helmet law.

    I’d also love to see regular events on the scale of CicLAvia in Los Angeles, but I know those would deeply hurt car drivers’ feelings and so we get puny “Bicycle Sunday” stuff that reinforces the idea that cycling is for recreation, not transportation.

    But, not my organization, I guess. Maybe we can do another “Super Fun Ride” or something to make sure Jenny “I Love Cars” Durkan shows up for the photo ops.

    • Bruce Nourish says:

      If you’re such a rebel, feel free to go out and organize those things yourself. Arguably it’s never been less necessary to have the machinery of a nonprofit behind you.

      • Eli says:

        That is true. Witness BikeLoudPDX which has done amazing work, and originated from a bikeportland thread.

  3. Don_Brubeck says:

    Have at it, Jort. Go for it and find out what you can do. Good luck taking on the powers that be with an even tinier percentage of the population sharing your interests, after you jettison the “boomers”. I’ve been enjoying your comments on the West Seattle Bridge in the WS Blog, but here you really lost me with the ageist and dismissive statements. It’s cheap and easy to make anonymous demands for instant and pure transformations. Much harder to actually come out to work with people, not hidden, compromising so its not all about you, making it work for them too, and thereby actually bringing about change. But, try it your way. Trying and failing is the only way to really learn.

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