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Stepping Down: David Bley’s Statement


September 28th, 2020

I’m writing to let you know that I’m stepping down as Director of the Pacific Northwest team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

My last 14 years have been the ride of lifetime, both for driving community impact and for my own personal growth. This work has brought me much meaning and joy and my relationships with all of you have mattered most of all. I hope that I have stewarded my responsibilities well over the years.

Some may find this hard to believe, but I started collecting Social Security this year. It struck me that I could have cut this message shorter by saying I am retiring but that is not the entire story. Being in the late stages of my career is in fact a huge factor in my decision, but not just because I love to read all day and listen to music with a view of Puget Sound.

This decision rests on two considerations.

Sooner or later, my last day in the office would have to come, and our team finds itself at a pivotal moment due to the pandemic. Imagining the future of our work in this new context appropriately rests with new leadership that will conceptualize it, own it, and execute it. My accountability, as director, is to position the team positively for what comes next, and I feel we are at a point where a new leader can bring a different set of strengths to the task at hand tailored to the path forward.

On a more personal level, I do intend to continue to work on those things I am passionate about – equity, opportunity and justice. I don’t know exactly how I will do that. But I will take time to reenergize and reflect. The urgency of the moment – COVID-19, new energy to address racial inequity, and national policy questions – does drive my decision, as well as the urgency I feel late in my career to use my talent and time in new ways.

My last day at the foundation will be October 31, and Allan Golston, the President of our U.S. Programs, will serve as acting director in the interim. The foundation will conduct a search, open to internal and external candidates, for a new director. Once hired, the new director will undertake a review of our Washington State strategy to recommend where and how the foundation can have the greatest impact, with a place-based approach, a focus on equitable opportunity, and in the context of the changes caused by current events.

I feel a great sense of gratitude for this journey with every one of you. I am also excited to look forward and to continue my life’s work to leave the world a little better than I found it.

David Bley



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