Perspectives For the New Year: Janet Smith and Gilda Nardone Take On New Leadership Roles

Gilda Nardone (L) and Janet Smith (R) exchange gifts at Gilda’s retirement celebration.

To honor new leadership roles and acknowledge their long-lasting mutual respect, New Ventures Maine Executive Director Janet Smith and retiring Executive Director Emerita Gilda Nardone presented each other with gifts last month at Gilda’s retirement celebration.

They requested items of meaning from one other: Janet asked Gilda for a gift that inspired her; Gilda asked for a gift of something that helps her to stay grounded in mind, body, and spirit.

Presenting Janet with two books, Gilda said, “What inspires me are the courageous women who have gone before and upon whose shoulders I stand, and the courageous young women coming into their own voices in leadership.” She gave Janet books of poetry by Maya Angelou and Amanda Gorman and read excerpts from their inaugural poems.

Janet gifted Gilda a set of wind chimes tuned to the pentatonic scale, adorned with a piece of agate at its center, saying, “…may the music of the chimes combined with the ancient earth energy bring harmony and balance to your life.”

The gift exchange was inspired by two leaders at Four Directions—Susan Hammond and Charlene Virgilio–who gave each other native blankets when they completed a leadership transition last fall.

As Gilda moves into retirement and Janet begins guiding New Ventures Maine staff and programs day-to-day, they shared perspectives on the new year, traits to keep handy in 2022, mentorship, and new year’s resolutions.

What are you most looking forward to in the coming year?

JS: I am hoping 2022 will be a year of opportunities for NVME and our participants. We will collaborate with partner organizations and align our contributions to make a bigger impact for underserved populations and those most affected by the pandemic.

GN: While I will miss my intense connection to and with NVME staff, Advisory Council, and partners, I am looking forward to more flexible time to get my own house in order, focus on my physical health and wellness, and spend more time outdoors in my own garden and at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.

What is a personal or professional trait that has served you well that you will bring with you into 2022?

JS: More than once I’ve been described as persistent and I love to solve problems of all kinds. These two traits have served me well and will be helpful in the new role that I’m stepping into; when given a problem I will find a way to figure it out and, as the NVME mantra goes, make it happen!

GN: I think a strength of mine has been building and nurturing positive relationships over the years. I look forward to continuing many of those relationships in different ways and on a more personal level in the year ahead.

What role has mentoring had in your career at New Ventures Maine? How might that change in 2022?

JS: I have had incredible mentors at New Ventures Maine, including Gilda. I will continue to seek out her advice and advice from others in my role as the new executive director. While I’ll miss working directly with participants, I will have a new opportunity to help the NVME staff to learn, grow, and reach their goals.

GN: I was very blessed to have wonderful mentors at the state and national level in the early years of my career, and I continue to be inspired by my colleagues. I have focused more recently on working with our young adult AmeriCorps VISTA members and participating in an Intergeneration Climate Change group, mentoring next generations of diverse leaders in Maine and beyond.

Are you making any New Year’s resolutions for 2022?

JS: As executive director, a priority for 2022 will be to work with staff to set some results that we want to achieve as an organization to help Maine people achieve economic security for themselves and their families.

GN: Every year, on New Year’s Day, I review the goals I set for myself the previous year, celebrate what I was able to accomplish, and set some new or renewed goals. My list for 2022 is long, but I want to focus on being as well as doing. And then there is my long-awaited first trip to Italy, homeland of my paternal immigrant grandparents, hopefully next fall!