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Sellers to return as United Way of Central Iowa president


A familiar face has been named the new president of the United Way of Central Iowa.

Mary Sellers has been named to the post, succeeding Elisabeth Buck when she retires in July, the United Way of Central Iowa’s board of directors announced today. Sellers previously led the organization from 2012 to 2017, when she was named U.S. president with the United Way Worldwide in Arlington, Va.

Buck’s last day is scheduled for July 9. Sellers is scheduled to start July 1, allowing for the two to work together to create a smooth transition, United Way officials said.

In a news release, Sellers said she is honored to once again have the opportunity to lead the United Way of Central Iowa.

“Serving as U.S. president with United Way Worldwide was a fantastic opportunity to gain an understanding of the challenges communities face across our country, as well as the innovative and successful solutions being implemented to address them,” Sellers said. “My experience also reinforced how Central Iowa is truly a special place, and how great it is to call this place my home.”

She commended Buck and her leadership guiding the organization in achieving its Community Goals for 2020 and the transition to its new strategic goals, United to Thrive, which were announced earlier this year.

“The collective impact made in advancing our Community Goals for 2020 was hard-earned and took the whole community to make it happen,” said Sellers, who recently served as interim CEO of the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden during its leadership search. “The United to Thrive strategy … provides an opportunity to continue that success, and I am enthusiastic and focused to lead our outstanding United Way team at a time when they have garnered such impressive momentum and strength in creating a better future.”

Buck, who has served as the United Way of Central Iowa president since 2017, described Sellers as a “great leader,” who has a “strong passion and vision for our community.”

“It’s a privilege to know I am leaving the organization in the capable hands of someone who knows us so well, who knows where we’ve been and can propel us toward a thriving future,” said Buck, who joined the United Way of Central Iowa in 2011 as chief community impact officer before being named president six years later. “She is someone I genuinely care for and admire.”

During Buck’s tenure as president, she helped launch the early-education literacy initiative Read to Succeed, the statewide 211 resource information services and the 21-Day Equity Challenge. She fostered a mission-focused culture around addressing the health, education and stability of Central Iowans and elevated equity issues in the community, advocating for eliminating racism and disparities.

Sean Vicente, who will assume the role of United Way of Central Iowa’s board chair in July and who led the search committee formed to find Buck’s successor, said that through discussions with the search committee and communications with a national search firm representative it was clear that Sellers was the “right person at the right time for our organization.”

“The depth of her experience, her strategic vision, her commitment to equity and inclusion, and her broad understanding of challenges and opportunities in advancing our work gives us great confidence in our collective future,” Vicente said in the release.

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