Meet a Local Leader: Noelle Chesney

Noelle Chesney, executive director, Dubuque Regional Humane Society

Dr. Noelle Chesney has been working with nonprofits for more than 20 years.

She holds degrees from Ohio State University and Baylor University, and has served on the faculty of Whitman College, East Tennessee State University, Texas Wesleyan University, Lycoming College and Collin College.

In addition, in 2015 she was the founding artistic director for Brick Road Theatre in Plano, Texas.

She and her spouse, Thom, have two children, as well as four dogs, one cat, a hamster and a leopard gecko.

Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader?

My spouse, Thom, who is the president of Clarke University, has had a significant impact on me. During the past 25 years, I’ve watched him grow as a leader through many challenging roles and circumstances, and he continues to lead with grace, compassion and with a focus on how people can work together to achieve great things.

What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?

Prioritizing the many needs, and deciding which ones to fill with the resources available.

As an organization gets larger, there can be a tendency for the “institution” to dampen the “inspiration.” How do you keep this from happening? Our organization includes people from all generations, so we listen to voices from different perspectives, which helps us keep a pulse on the needs. We also continue to focus our commitment to our mission, and every time an animal is adopted and leaves the building with its new family, our inspiration is revitalized.

Which is more important to your organization – mission, core values or vision? In our organization, all three work together. But we strive to always remain true to our mission.

What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess? Patience.

What advice to you have for future leaders? Don’t underestimate your ability to lead. You already might be exhibiting leadership skills in what you are doing, even if you are not yet labeled as a leader.

What lessons can leaders take away from the current pandemic? We are stronger together. Foster a network of support, and stay flexible.

What are two or three of the best things about being a leader? Collaboration with others to achieve common goals, and working to make a positive impact in the community, as well as serving the greater good.