The board of directors for Just Food, the Douglas County food bank, announced Brett Hartford as the organization’s new executive director Friday morning “following a comprehensive and inclusive search,” according to a news release.
Hartford was born and raised in Lawrence and is a graduate of Free State High School.
“I am beyond excited to make a return to Lawrence and be a part of the amazing reputation that the staff, volunteers, and supporters at Just Food have already established toward ending hunger in Douglas County and making food access equitable for all of our neighbors,” Hartford said in the release.
Hartford will return home after spending the past 10 years at City Relief, a not-for-profit that serves those experiencing homelessness in New York City, and begin working at Just Food on Dec. 5, according to the release.
Prior to that, Hartford has worked in Orlando and a multi-site church in New Jersey. He also served for the past 13 years in the New Jersey National Guard, where he plays low brass in the 63rd Army Band.
“Hartford loves making new friends out of strangers and learning about how diversity makes us better, collectively,” according to the release.
“Outside of work, Hartford has been married for 14 years to his childhood best friend, Renee, and together they have two daughters; Selah, 8, and Talita, 5,” according to the release. “He loves finding adventures with his family, running (he just ran the NYC Marathon this past weekend!), eating good food, and chopping wood.”
James Walden, president of Just Food’s board, said the organization is excited to have someone of Hartford’s caliber to lead its next chapter.
“Brett brings his passion for serving along with his broad and deep nonprofit experience, including strategic partnerships, team collaboration and fundraising,” Walden said in the release. “Importantly, he also comes with the knowledge of and love for our community.”
The previous permanent leader of Just Food, Elizabeth Keever, announced in March that she was taking a job at Heartland Community Health Center. From there, Just Food’s director of finance, Brett Salsbury, took over as interim director, but he departed Oct. 7 to take a job back in his home town. Staff has been reporting to the board since then.