Paul Andrews

Posts Tagged ‘Jon Kennedy’

Right Rider for the Job: Tribute to Jon Kennedy

In Bicycle advocacy on February 25, 2010 at 10:41 am

Jon Kennedy getting it done on the trail as well as off

When he became acting executive director of Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance last fall, Jon Kennedy inherited an organization that had lost its balance and was heading for a tumble. As it turned out, Kennedy was the right guy for the job. Anyone who has watched Jon guide a bike on a skinny or over a drop can see he knows how to regain balance and ride a tricky section out. That’s what he did for Evergreen.

Last week Evergreen announced that Kennedy is leaving. On Mar. 1 he will take over as marketing manager for the resurgent Diamondback Bicycles conglomerate (with Raleigh) based in Kent. Ironically the commute from his West Seattle home will be about the same as it was to Evergreen HQ at north Green Lake in Seattle. Which is fortunate, because Jon expects to maintain close ties to the club he helped guide back from the brink.

“I love Evergreen, I love the organization, the people and the agenda,” Jon said by phone after the announcement. Any rumor mill suggestions that he is leaving out of disenchantment would be “absolutely wrong,” he added.

Jon was recruited by Diamondback after working with its brand manager, Mike Brown, on Evergreen sponsorships that resulted in a bike giveaway and $2,500 commitment to the club. The compensation package offered by Diamondback, which is seeking to re-establish itself as a leading name in mountain biking, was too good to pass up.

At 35, “I have my family to think about,” said Jon — wife Ilana, son Erez, 3, and daughter Lilah, 18 months. Anyone who has worked for a non-profit understands that it’s typically not a career but a stepping stone. Despite Jon’s short tenure, it probably seemed more like an entire staircase — but it’s to his credit that so much got done to carry Evergreen forward.

It was Jon’s work with Evergreen that impressed Diamondback. “His energy and dedication, combined with his organizational skills, will be a big plus for us,” Brown said.

A cornerstone of Diamondback’s marketing agenda is working with local, active leadership groups like Evergreen to build and maintain trails. “It’s called ‘Places to Ride’,” Brown noted — a seemingly obvious mission for bike-related companies everywhere, but one which often isn’t acted upon.

Kudos to Diamondback for recognizing a golden opportunity. “We’re in a very competitive space. so getting our message to riders can be a real challenge.” Brown acknowledged, referencing Diamondback’s long-travel Mission, XC Sortie and expanding dirt jump lines. (For drool factor, check out the limited edition Scapegoat.) Key liaisons like Jon and Evergreen and the base they bring along do word-of-mouth wonders.

With Jon at the helm, Evergreen helped get marquee projects on track, from Duthie Hill to South Fork Snoqualmie to Black Diamond. Colonnade got much-deserved attention. New sponsorships rolled in, including Gregg’s, Home Depot and Black Diamond. And Evergreen’s name was prominent in events like the Feb. 5 premiere of “Women of Dirt,” a cinematic look at mountain biking femmes.

A number of the goals outlined at the Duthie Hill gathering last fall are being addressed, including balancing the club’s twin missions of advocacy and recreation. Although the 2010 season is still a couple of months away, the ride calendar seems on the way back to health. And the mtb scene is popping locally — with Evergreen’s involvement every step of the way.

To be sure, challenges loom. First will be finding a replacement for Jon — he says not to worry, several well-qualified folks are in the hopper. Then there’s at least one goal mentioned at the gathering that hasn’t seen much traction — to wit, spreading Evergreen responsibilities across more than one set of shoulders.

Evergreen’s board needs to move a bit faster to address the org’s needs. Despite his yeoman service, Jon never officially had “acting” dropped from his title. It’s on the board to get his replacement named summarily (Glenn Glover has been appointed interim) and take action on other leadership issues.

In a non-profit, Jon joked, “there’s only one way to find out how much you’re appreciated — and that’s to quit.” He’s been “blown away” by the surge of well-wishes and expressions of gratitude. He may be moving on, but not away.

“Diamondback is tremendously committed to local advocacy, so I expect to stay involved with Evergreen,” Jon says, adding that Evergreen is like the Hotel California. You can check out any time you want, but you never get to leave.

Evergreen’s announcement.

Jon’s departing letter to Evergreen.

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Change is afoot, er, apedal, at Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance

In Bicycle advocacy, Mountain Biking, Obama Bikes, Trail Access on August 15, 2009 at 4:30 pm

The Puget Sound region’s leading mountain bike club, the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, is undergoing some Obama-like “change you can believe in” as a result of membership turmoil we reported on last month.

The latest shocker: Executive director John Lang is resigning as of Sept. 1. Lang’s arrival in the spring of 2008 marked a sharp change of direction for the organization then known as the Backcountry Bicycle Trails Club. Lang put a stamp of professionalism on the club, liaisoning it with other user groups and forest administrative agencies while also shepherding mtb projects like Colonnade (a huge publicity win for the club), Paradise Valley and Duthie Hill.

Announcing Lang’s departure with “great regret,” Evergreen president Jennifer Lesher noted that during his tenure “We have attained a seat on the Washington DNR’s Sustainability Work Group and an appointment to the Snoqualmie Unit Advisory Committee. We have worked with the Mountains to Sound Greenway, State Parks, and Snohomish County, Kent, and Redmond. John’s leadership and hard work were key in establishing these positions.”

But Lang is not a mountain biker, a factor that led him to become a lightning rod for discontent over club policies starting with the surprise name change (which was under way before he took office). He also failed to communicate with the membership, which saw him as detached and aloof, even as his political acumen made measurable progress with previously antagonistic or uncooperative sectors.

We at BikeIntelligencer believe Lang was making the right moves, but without buy-ins from the membership. A better communicator would have explained what he was up to and done the political spade work to create ownership at the member level.

Since July’s board meeting, Lesher and Jon Kennedy, program director, have been actively seeking input on the club’s future direction, meeting and speaking with a number of longtime members. Jen’s take in an e-mail posted on Evergreen’s Yahoo! list:

“The Board of Directors is working to devise a plan for the immediate and
long term future of the organization. We have some critical decisions to
make about how we’re going to allocate our resources and prioritize our
obligations, but please rest assured that we plan to honor our commitments,
goals and mission.”

The turmoil within Evergreen comes at a strategic juncture for the sport of mountain biking. Even as the sport explodes among youth, especially teenagers, agencies and other trail user groups are expressing concern over the growth in unauthorized (again, we avoid the term “illegal” as inapplicable in trail administration) construction and riding. In Canada there is no problem, so the kids (groms) watch the DVDs and go to Whistler and NorthShore and see what’s possible and want it in their back yards. They don’t know how to work the system and in any case do not want to wait for bureaucracy to act. In the meantime, veteran mtbers take the heat from their trail peers for things they have nothing to do with (but may wholeheartedly support!); like what adult ever stopped kids from building things — treehouses, forts, skateparks and so on down the line.

Thus “advocacy” becomes the stepchild of “recreation,” creating a dualistic mission for a group like Evergreen.

It all sets the stage for a lively “Town Hall” summit meeting on Tuesday, September 1 at Duthie Hill near Issaquah. It looks like there will be riding before and/or after, as well as a barbecue and festive atmosphere to keep the mood upbeat and positive. See you there!