First Steps Kent president resigns

Annemarie Valdez. Courtesy 616 Media

The president of a local non-profit association resigns.

First Steps Kent said on Monday, May 2, President Annemarie Valdez will leave the organization on Friday, May 6, and Cati Cortes will take over as interim president, effective the same date.

Valdez joined First Steps Kent as executive director in 2015, the Business Journal previously reported. She was recently honored as one of The Business Journal’s 50 Most Powerful Women of 2022.

Cortes joined First Steps Kent in 2019 as a Financial Accountant. In this role, she worked with budgets, processes and partners for the Ready by Five Early Childhood Millage Project, Shared Services Pilot Project and Early Childhood Systems.

“I am thrilled to serve in this role as interim president and to help guide the organization through the transition to new leadership,” Cortes said. “Over the past two years, I have gained an in-depth understanding of the Kent County Early Years System, funding partners and community partnerships. I have an amazing staff with me who will help us maintain the quality and communication that people have come to expect from First Steps Kent.

Cati Cortes. Courtesy of First Steps Kent

Following the announcement of Valdez’s departure last month, the First Steps Kent Board of Commissioners convened a search committee to guide the selection process for new officers.

The search committee chose Kittleman & Associates to coordinate the search for a new permanent president.

“Over the next few months, Kittleman will conduct an extensive search in West Michigan and beyond for the next leader of First Steps Kent,” said Juan Olivarez, chair of the search committee. “This represents an incredible opportunity to connect with the commission, staff, early years partners and our community to find out what they are looking for in a new chairman who can build on Kent County’s reputation as a as a national early childhood leader.”

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