GRAND RAPIDS — With her first month on the job behind her, Kimberly Coleman, the new executive director of the Grand Rapids Bar Association, said she is happy in her latest position.
“I think I made an outstanding decision,” said the Saginaw native, “and they’ve made me feel more than welcome.”
Coleman succeeded Deirdre Toeller-Novak on Nov. 6. She was chosen from a field of more than 70 applicants who vied for the position, the equivalent of a private sector CEO post. Coleman moved here from Lansing, where she spent much of her professional career directing nonprofit organizations.
“I have been a nonprofit manager for about 18 to 20 years total, from Community Mental Health to other nonprofit organizations, such as the YMCA and the Single Parent Family Institute. There, I developed and implemented program concepts and have actually felt pretty good about the accomplishments that were made over the past year,” she said.
“Those were all in Lansing, and I’ve also worked in Saginaw.”
Coleman attended Jackson State University, the University of Louisville and Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. She said she came to the bar association because she saw an opportunity.
“The opportunity to work with community and with a membership organization, an area that I’m familiar with. The ability to work with staffing and use some creativity in the kinds of programs that we can offer the community and its membership,” said Coleman.
“My passion is people, empowering people and embracing community. So when I’m not at the bar, I’m doing something else that will help me satisfy those needs, and, what I sense is my purpose and my passion: to give back to the community in a variety of different ways.”
Coleman’s main duties are to implement the bar’s services and programs, and to develop partnerships in the community. Much of her time right now is being directed at getting the Legal Assistance Center ready, which the bar is expected to open next month in the Kent County courthouse.
“They’re finishing up some construction work,” she said.
“We’re preparing to get moved in and begin getting organized, and then get all the systems and technology up and running.”
Coleman said attorneys are still needed at the center, which will provide referrals and advice to those who need legal help but may not necessarily be able to afford it. All areas are needed, and lawyers can volunteer their talents by calling Andrea Smith at 454-5550.
The bar is a nonprofit organization that represents the legal community. Membership is voluntary. GRBA has about 1,500 members, an annual budget of nearly $650,000, and the bar’s foundation has nearly $1 million in assets. The bar is governed by a 17-member board.
Dale Ann Iverson is bar president, while Judge Patrick Bowler is president-lect.