MRA Board of Directors: Meeting Summary for Fall 2023

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Greetings! This is to provide you with and update and overview of the fall board meeting of the Mountain Retreat Association (MRA, d.b.a. Montreat Conference Center), held last month.  

Opening Address by MRA President 

Richard DuBose, MRA president, initiated the meeting with an update on the MRA’s financial and programmatic progress during the current fiscal year, which began on May 1st. Through October, the conference center had earned a slight surplus relative to budget, and program activity remained strong. For the calendar year 2023, it is projected that the conference center will host 439 total events.  

In previewing the ensuing strategic planning conversation, Mr. DuBose noted that the MRA last conducted a strategic planning process in 2014. While implementation of the first five years of that plan went smoothly and many objectives were achieved, the pandemic and subsequent events revealed the need for a new plan to guide the conference center through the next five years. 

Strategic Planning Overview 

Tucker Branham, principal of CDM, a strategic planning consulting firm, was introduced to the board and presented an update on the first month of the strategic planning process. Tucker presented insights from early surveys, focus group meetings, and individual interviews, and led a discussion with the Board and senior staff. Next steps include continued data gathering and a review of fundamental questions on vision, mission, core values, and guiding principles while key focus areas are identified. The board expects to adopt the new plan by November 2024.  

Discussion on the New Lodge 

The board met in executive session to receive an update and hold a discussion on the current status of the board’s plan to build a new lodge on its campus. Returning from executive session, no actions were reported.  

Other Items of Interest 

During the meeting, the board also:  

  • Received exciting news about major donations received recently for the renovation of the Barn as well as a state grant from the State of North Carolina for the restoration of Lake Susan. 
  • Celebrated staff members marking significant work anniversaries with the MRA.  
  • Bid farewell to departing board members while welcoming a new class of six members. MRA Board members departing include Harry Emerson, Tanza Farr, Will Jones, Eileen Lindner, Robin Melvin, and Board Chair Joe Clifford, all completing their sixth year of service. The new class includes Margaret Bauer, Dan Boyd, Amos Disasa, Rick Giles, Betsy Shoenfelt, and Betsy Swetenburg.  

The MRA Board of Directors is composed of 27 members, 20 of whom must be ordained officers in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Each member may serve two consecutive three-year terms. The current membership, representing the breadth of the conference center’s constituency, includes 17 board members with cottager connections in the valley.