The Star Democrat

Waterfowl Chesapeake executive director to step down Dec. 31

- BY NATALIE JONES njones@chespub c. om

EASTON — After six years, Waterfowl Chesapeake’s Executive Director Margaret Enloe-North is stepping down from her position at the end of December.

During her tenure as the organizati­on’s executive director, including two years spent dealing with the unpreceden­ted COVID-19 pandemic, Enloe-North worked to bring Waterfowl Chesapeake and the Waterfowl Festival into the modern age through a multitude of behind-the-scenes changes.

When she was hired in 2015, Enloe-North was tasked with helping to lead Waterfowl Chesapeake into the conservati­on arena — a job she excelled at. The first thing she did with her staff was implementi­ng the Community in Conservati­on grant program to establish a dependable funding source for waterfowl conservati­on, restoratio­n science and educationa­l projects through the Chesapeake Bay region.

Under her leadership, Waterfowl Chesapeake supported a Ducks Unlimited project to restore 25 acres of land in the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and gave a grant to the Pickering Creek Audubon Center for nature trail improvemen­ts and expansion, among others. One of the main goals of the organizati­on is to ensure there’s public access and visibility to conservati­on projects, she said.

To further publicize and amplify the benefits of the Waterfowl Festival, Enloe-North worked with her team to bring a message of conservati­on to the forefront of the festival brand to remind the community of her organizati­on’s mission.

Enloe-North also strived to bring the business systems behind Waterfowl into the modern age, both with sales and communicat­ions — operations she considers “incredibly important to get the organizati­on running as efficientl­y as it can.”

However, 2020 threw EnloeNorth and the Waterfowl Chesapeake staff a curveball like they’d never seen before.

“Quite frankly, 2020, the COVID year — everything was focused on relationsh­ips, keeping staff intact and keeping the facility intact and bringing in money to support the organizati­on and make sure we were here for a 50th festival,” Enloe-North said.

“2020 doesn’t count as a normal year, obviously,” she added.

After lots of conversati­ons, the Waterfowl Chesapeake board made the tough decision to cancel the Waterfowl Festival in 2020. Enloe-North described it as a “difficult call to make, but it was the only call we really could make.”

Even without the official festival taking place in 2020, Enloe-North reached out to local nonprofits to put together Community Day — an event held on festival weekend to get people outside and bring them together, while also exploring nonprofit activities and shopping at local businesses.

Other than COVID, putting on a great Waterfowl Festival every year is the biggest challenge she’s faced in her position — especially with trying to advance the festival while staying true to its traditions, not the mention navigating the 500 relationsh­ips she organizati­on maintains to make the event work.

When it comes to picking her own favorite part of the festival, Enloe-North finds it hard to narrow it down to just one. However, she highlighte­d a special affection for the fine arts, the crowds and the joy of being outside on the street with people in the community. Of course, she can’t forget the diving dogs — a classic festival favorite.

This year’s festival, hosted the second weekend of November, was the 50th annual Waterfowl Festival.

“It’s an iconic event every fall, and I think having not had it one year, we all truly now feel grateful for that coming together the second weekend of November,” she said.

Unable to narrow down her own favorite part, Enloe-North thinks that there’s a gift to be found in every aspect of the Waterfowl Festival.

“There’s just so much to see and do and appreciate, and friends to be with, and you know, it’s kind of never-ending,” she continued. “I always treat it like a giant scavenger hunt; I’m going to walk around every corner and see what there is.”

Now, Enloe-North is walking around to a new corner as she explores the world outside of the Waterfowl Festival. Her decision to step down as Waterfowl Chesapeake’s executive director came after she recognized it was “time to turn leadership over to someone else who will take an organizati­on into the future,” she said.

“...I felt that the time was right, right after the 50th festival,” she said. “Of course, that means I get to go out on a high, which is terrific.”

“It’s just time for someone to bring new energy to the event, and also to the conservati­on and where this organizati­on wants to go next,” she added.

The organizati­on’s board is working to figure out their next steps in finding a new executive director, but will likely take the opportunit­y to re-evaluate and make changes.

“Wherever this organizati­on goes, I have full faith that the festival event itself will continue,” she said.

Overall, Enloe-North is most proud that she’s leaving Waterfowl Chesapeake in a better state than she found it, primarily through advancing the organizati­on into the modern age and increasing its relevance. She’s looking forward to seeing where the next executive director will take it.

However, she will miss working with the people who make the Waterfowl Festival possible. The event requires the time and effort of board members, chairmen and hundreds of volunteers to run successful­ly. The festival has allowed her to meet wonderful people and experience fantastic community service, she said.

Looking forward, Enloe-North is still figuring out the specifics of her next steps, but intends to use the skills she’s gained from working with Waterfowl Chesapeake. Her plan is to launch her own business — The Firebird Coaching and Consulting — to work with aspiring profession­als wanting to advance their careers and to do nonprofit strategic consulting, she said.

Her new venture’s name — The Firebird Coaching and Consulting — is representa­tive of who she is as a person, she said, adding that ‘firebird’ is reflective of the idea of moving herself forward, being and achieving all that you want.

Enloe-North will step down from her position as Waterfowl Chesapeake’s executive director on Dec. 31.

 ?? CONTRIBUTE­D PHOTO ?? Waterfowl Chesapeake executive director Margaret EnloeNorth poses for a picture with Willa the Fox, Waterfowl Festival’s mascot.
CONTRIBUTE­D PHOTO Waterfowl Chesapeake executive director Margaret EnloeNorth poses for a picture with Willa the Fox, Waterfowl Festival’s mascot.

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