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VVHS picks new director, again
Written by Greg Ruland   
Friday, 19 August 2011 15:00

The new executive director at Verde Valley Humane Society believes actions speak louder than words.

When the city of Cottonwood declined to take possession and operate the shelter earlier this month, newly appointed Executive Director Sierra Neblina and a revamped board of directors realized drastic action was necessary.

As her first order of business, Neblina successfully negotiated deals with both the city and the Humane Society of Sedona that probably saved the shelter from closing its doors Thursday, Sept. 1.

Former board President Dawn Hunsberger stepped down in favor of Kyla Allen, who also serves as executive assistant to Cottonwood City Manager Doug Bartosh. Hunsberger will continue to serve as past president to assist Neblina as she comes up to speed on the shelter’s operations.

New Verde Valley Humane SOCIETY Executive Director Sierra Neblina describes herself as a protector and a “voice for the  voiceless,” during an interview Friday, Aug. 12. Neblina said she plans to follow the model of the successful Humane Society of Sedona to turn around the misdirection of VVHS.A 41-year-old veteran of the first Iraq War and descendant of the Cherokee Dream Walker Clan, Neblina said Friday, Aug. 12, she’s the right person for the job.

“I’m a strong believer that actions speak louder than words,” Neblina said. “I invite people to come in and meet me, see what we’re doing. I feel once people see what we’re doing, they’ll know things are going to be different around here.”

Neblina takes the job with eyes wide open. She knows the society just experienced several turbulent months during which two executive directors departed along with all but two employees and a half dozen or so board members.

She inherits an animal shelter facing extreme financial difficulty and a jeopardized public reputation, but Neblina said she fears not.

Before agreeing to take the job, she asked every member of the board to check her references and confirm her qualifications for themselves.

In addition to her nine years of Army service — part of which she spent in Operation Desert Storm as the first woman trained to transport and deploy Patriot missiles — Neblina said she worked every construction trade there is and managed a variety of different businesses.

“I could build you a house all by myself if I had to,” she said. “I’ve developed myself into a pretty tough businesswoman.”

Her first action as director was to negotiate with the city of Cottonwood to obtain advance payment of the full amount of its contract for animal shelter services.

“That will give us a little breathing room,” Neblina said.

The city also agreed to assist the shelter with repairs and maintenance which are starting to accumulate at the new Adopt for Life Center, she said.

Next, Neblina struck a deal with the Humane Society of Sedona, which agreed to lend expertise and computer software that will allow the Verde Valley shelter to track animals and standardize procedures in a way never before experienced.

“I’m pleased to announce that we will be partnering with [Humane Society of Sedona] going forward. Thanks to their help, we’re not going to have to reinvent the wheel,” she said.

She worked intensively with the new board of directors to institute procedures for board communication that stress full disclosure, transparency and collegiality, she said.

Along with new board President Kyla Allen, Neblina brings a depth of experience to the board of directors that VVHS lacked until now.

“Kyla [Allen] is a tremendous addition. She’s really going to make a big difference,” Neblina said.

An adopted child who learned about her Indian roots as a young adult, Neblina said she is also a medicine woman trained by tribal elders in Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.

“In my soul, I’m a cat person,” Neblina said, but that didn’t stop her and her partner from adopting a dog from the shelter.

“All of my life, I fought for people who couldn’t fight for themselves. Now I’m going to do that for the animals,” she said.


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