Daisy Alford-Smith, chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of North East Ohio for the past five years, announced her retirement Wednesday.
“As I reflect on my last five years ... I see the myriad of changes that have brought both challenges and wonderful opportunities to this great council,” said Alford-Smith, who helped the council restructure and implement a five-year strategic plan. “Together, we made GSNEO one of the premier councils in the nation.”
During her tenure, Alford-Smith presided over the merger of five area councils within 18 counties. The organization serves 40,000 girls and 15,000 adult volunteer members.
She has also been at the helm during one of the more tumultuous eras of the organization. Since 2009, GSNEO has sold or returned several local camps to their owners. If its plans are completed, the council would retain only three of the 14 camps that existed four years ago.
Following a court victory earlier this year, after parents challenged the decision to put four of the camps on the market, Alford-Smith expressed hope that the organization could put the controversy behind it.
“I’m just hopeful we are at a point where we can heal together to make it a good future for our next generation,” she said at the time.
Alford-Smith has also participated in the national re-branding of Girl Scouts and helped design new leadership-development programs in the region to help girls build courage, confidence and character.
“I quickly learned that GSNEO was in a position to lead, to inspire, and to catapult a diverse group of girls toward becoming the next generation of women leaders,” she said.
She recalled that at the age of 15, high school guidance counselors encouraged her to pursue a technical career, indicating college wasn’t an option for a girl living in public housing.
She decided they were wrong and went on to earn a Nursing Diploma from Montefiore Hospital School of Nursing in Pittsburgh; a bachelor of science degree in nursing from the Excelsior College of The University of the State of New York; a Master of Science in Technical Education from The University of Akron and a doctorate in Urban Education from Cleveland State University.
She spent more than 20 years in the private and public health sectors, including roles as deputy director of the Ohio Department of Human Services, director of the Cleveland Department of Public Health, director of Case Western Reserve University’s Center for Urban & Minority Health, and director of the Summit County Department of Job & Family Services.
A news release by the Girl Scouts credited Alford-Smith with increasing membership of girls and adults, increasing funding and sales revenue, and improving customer service and staff efficiency since assuming her post in 2007.
Now she plans to spend more time with her family, as well as traveling and playing golf.
“My career has come full circle,” Alford-Smith said. “Every one of my previous jobs had been reactive. This was the first time in my career that I had an opportunity to be proactive.
“I really wanted to make a difference in the lives of young girls by developing a leadership program that encourages girls to be self-sufficient,” she explained. “I believe every girl has abounding potential inside — more than she may know at this moment — and I implore her to discover it.”