RNLI director stands down

AN RNLI director who was heavily involved in negotiations during the St Helier lifeboat dispute has resigned.

Leesa Harwood, RNLI director of community lifesaving and fundraising
Leesa Harwood, RNLI director of community lifesaving and fundraising

Leesa Harwood is standing down as the national charity’s community lifesaving director after nine years in the role ‘to focus more on non-work commitments’.

Ms Harwood visited Jersey on numerous occasions after the St Helier lifeboat crew fell out with the charity following the sacking of coxswain Andy Hibbs, who was later reinstated.

In November she held an emergency meeting with the crew in Jersey as the dispute escalated. A short time later the charity closed the station and took the all-weather lifeboat to Poole.

A number of the crew and their supporters then went on to set up the independent Jersey Lifeboat Association.

In a statement posted on the RNLI’s website, the charity’s chief executive Paul Boissier said Ms Harwood would be working her full notice, with her last day due to be 26 October.

He added: ‘I would like to thank Leesa for her dedication and the leadership she has shown over the last nine years. She has been instrumental in driving some brave decisions, such as pushing us to be the first charity to move to opt in [where charities only contact supporters who give their permission to be contacted] and the merger of fundraising and operations into what we now know as Community Lifesaving. These decisions have set us up for success in the 21st century.

‘I realise that this news comes at a time when we are focusing on fixing issues and addressing concerns that affect our lifesaving service, particularly within CLS, and some of you may find it quite unsettling. However, I want to reassure you that it’s my priority to keep things as steady as possible for all Community Lifesaving teams and volunteers over the coming months.

‘With Leesa remaining in post until the autumn and some new members of her leadership team already making a big difference, my focus will be to bring in a new director who can build on the work that Leesa has started, and who has the expertise, experience and leadership capability to lead this absolutely critical part of the RNLI strongly into the future.’

Ms Harwood, meanwhile, said her time with the organisation had been ‘rewarding, humbling and fulfilling’.

‘It has been an absolute privilege to work with such an incredible team of staff and volunteers here at the RNLI and to have been able to add value to this very special charity,’ she added. ‘Now though, commitments outside work mean that I can no longer give the time and energy that this role demands and after nine years at the RNLI, it is time to move on.’

Recruitment for a replacement director will begin soon.

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