Celebrating Our Beloved Peggy Minnich on the Eve of Her Retirement
My very first meeting with Peggy Minnich, Cal Wellness’ Chief Financial Officer, was daunting. She had shared a stack full of financial information with me beforehand, and it was a lot of material to get through for a non-finance type like myself. But I quickly realized that I was in good hands.
Before I joined as CEO in 2014, Cal Wellness had gone through several transitions. Early in my tenure, Peggy told me, “If we’re looking a little weathered, it’s because you’re the fourth CEO we’ve had in a short time.”
Peggy is currently the longest-standing employee of our foundation, and in many ways, she has seen it all. I knew she would be an invaluable asset to me as I settled in at Cal Wellness, and I was right.
As part of my transition into my new role, I spoke with each of our staff members, and each one mentioned the important role Peggy played in the foundation. It quickly became apparent to me that she was the glue that had been holding everyone together over the past few years. Peggy had taken on several simultaneous roles – she was responsible for HR, for special initiatives, and of course, for finance. For a short time, she even served as acting CEO. And although she had an important formal role as CFO, I could see that she also held another important role – as the foundation’s heart.
Peggy was very supportive and willing to help me in any way she could. Although, she did emphasize, “I don’t do public speaking” (more on that later).
And it's not just the Cal Wellness family that has a love affair with Peggy. She was recently recognized by her peers as one of the top CFOs in the nonprofit sector. We couldn't agree more.
From day one, Peggy and I had an instant rapport, even though we are very different people. In terms of our learning styles, Peggy needs time to absorb information, whereas I like to move quickly. Peggy is thoughtful and cautious, and I’m more inclined toward action. But we really connected over our love of learning and our curiosity. We both have a drive to improve and always be learning, and in the five years that we’ve worked together, we’ve learned much from each other. I was able to feed her curiosity and learning, and I helped to push her out of her comfort zone. And she helped me be a better leader by reminding me of the importance of slowing down, being more reflective and enhancing my listening skills.
Almost three years ago, I asked Peggy if she would take the responsibility of finding our new office locations, which included designing the spaces. Her reaction was, “I get a headache just thinking about redesigning my bathroom. I’ve never done this before.” But she took on the project and because of her creativity, her leadership, and her willingness to learn, we now have two amazing offices in downtown Los Angeles and Oakland that have made us more accessible to our community and help us to fulfill our mission. Peggy had to make some difficult decisions, especially with our L.A. offices, as the move from Woodland Hills to downtown meant that several of our employees would suddenly have a longer commute. She felt strongly about the new location, though, and the move has been successful.
When we decided to explore and begin mission-related investing, she was a thoughtful advocate and guided our steps. And while she initially had no desire to speak in public, she has now given several speeches, including presentations to the Cal Wellness board of directors. It has been a pleasure to see her step out of her comfort zone and to do it in a spectacular fashion.
When Peggy came to me recently and told me about her pending retirement, I had mixed emotions. I was so happy for her and her new adventure, but sad to hear that she was leaving Cal Wellness. I’m so grateful to have worked with Peggy for these past five years. She has worked tirelessly to help fulfill my vision of place, of community, and of customer service, while giving me the space that I needed in order to lead in my own way as I learned and grew in my role. Through it all, her knowledge and her quiet approach have provided a calming influence for me. I will miss Peggy’s intellect and her endless well of information, her integrity and her loyalty. And I will miss her friendship – although I know we’ll be friends for life – and I will certainly be keeping her on speed dial.
Finally, I’d like to toast Peggy with her favorite beverage (and one she’s known for loving here at Cal Wellness)—a can of Diet Mountain Dew. To a supportive colleague, a good friend, and a wonderful mother and grandmother – wishing you lots of quality time with your delightful family in your retirement. You have left behind quite a legacy.
Judy Belk leads The California Wellness Foundation in pursuing its mission to improve the health of the people of California. In her role, she uses her vision and her voice to help Cal Wellness “level the playing field” so that everyone has access to good-paying jobs, safe neighborhoods and quality health care services.