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New leader helms Council of Churches

Jaimie Trussell leaves Teen Challenge for CEO role

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A lengthy search to find the new leader at Council of Churches of the Ozarks Inc. ended this summer with the hiring of nonprofit veteran Jaimie Trussell.

Trussell began her role as CEO Aug. 3, succeeding the Rev. Mark Struckhoff, who retired late last year after leading the organization since 2010. Rick George, CCO’s operating officer, served as CEO in the interim.

“I don’t want to say intimidated, because I’m generally pretty bold,” Trussell said of taking the organization’s reins. “But it’s a big job, and Mark Struckhoff is such a figure in the community and is personally someone I’ve always admired and respected tremendously. So, the thought of being a successor to his tenure certainly gives one pause.”

CCO’s board of directors selected Trussell among three finalists in late June. Tom Ryan, board vice president, declined to disclose the other finalists’ names. Six leading candidates emerged in March among more than 25 applicants, but the interview process was halted until May because of the coronavirus pandemic, said board President Linda Merkling.

“We had not planned on waiting that long to fill the position. We were actually accepting applications in January and February,” said Merkling, who works as an advertising account executive at Springfield Business Journal.

Trussell comes to CCO from Adult & Teen Challenge USA, where she served as chief development officer and vice president of marketing. She started in 2019 at Adult & Teen Challenge, which is also a faith-based nonprofit. That work was preceded by over six years at Convoy of Hope, where she held several roles, including director of development.

Trussell is in charge of CCO’s $6.2 million operating budget and nearly 60 employees.CCO officials declined to disclose Trussell’s salary information.

A 2017 filing with the IRS shows Struckhoff earned $75,452 in reportable compensation from CCO, as well as $62,291 in other compensation from the organization and related entities.

“It is in line with what Mark was making,” Ryan said.

The organization, which has 72 member congregations, works through nine service programs. They cover all age groups, with roughly over 100,000 people served annually through services such as Crosslines food pantry and Safe to Sleep emergency women’s shelter.

“There are so many folks in need,” she said. “(CCO’s) heart has always been to serve the most vulnerable, the neediest among us.”

A new direction
Struckhoff said he had every intention of remaining retired upon leaving CCO in November 2019. However, an offer to become the director of clergy and church financial ministry at Columbia-based Missouri United Methodist Foundation was too good to turn down.

Just like Trussell, his first day for the new job was Aug. 3.

He’s currently working remotely in Springfield but plans to move to Columbia later this month.

During Struckhoff’s tenure at CCO, fundraising rose to roughly $2 million in 2019 from $800,000 in 2007, and the Safe to Sleep women’s shelter he helped start grew its annual budget to around $300,000 in 2019 from $100,000 in 2011. He also launched an early childhood program, and expanded children’s and adult day care services.

“I felt very fortunate just to put my hand to the wheel for a short time,” said Struckhoff, who started at CCO as director of advancement. “The founder, Dorsey Levell, was there for 30-plus years. I knew him and was mentored by him.

“I felt like I was the luckiest guy in town to do that work as long as I did it.”

Rev. Levell, who started the organization in 1969, died Jan. 22 at age 86.

Struckhoff noted he and Trussell also share Missouri State University as another common employer on their resume. Trussell succeeded Struckhoff as scholarship coordinator in 2003 at the university before she was promoted to director of development in 2006. The MSU graduate then moved on to Convoy of Hope in 2012, where she worked until Adult & Teen Challenge in 2019.

“I’m so excited about Jaimie’s leadership, her skill set and background,” Struckhoff said. “I just think God has really prepared her for this work.”

Future vision
Even as a lifelong Springfieldian, Trussell said she had to get educated about CCO during the interview process.

“I’m still learning a lot. One of the mistakes a leader makes is to create strategy in a vacuum,” she said. “I’m a very collaborative-style leader, so I want lots and lots of input.”

Part of that input will come from strategic visioning that already was underway. Trussell said the process was on hold until a CEO was in place.

One of her short-term goals is growing the church membership, but she doesn’t yet have a numbers goal.

“There should be more churches involved,” she said. “My vision would be to bring a lot more churches alongside to do some important work and to serve our community.”

Aside from her new role at CCO, Trussell also became president in June of the Springfield-Branson National Airport Board of Directors.

There were feelings of both excitement and trepidation for each position, she said.

“I’m not sure anyone would want to take the helm during a global pandemic,” she said.

“That being said, I don’t feel like there are any accidents. I could not be more excited to be affiliated with an organization doing what Council of Churches does.”

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