The New England Conference and the Rolling Ridge Board of Directors are pleased to announce that Melinda Trotti has been named interim director of the retreat and conferencecenter in N. Andover, MA.
Trotti will begin at Rolling Ridge on July 1, 2016. The Rev. Larry Peacock, who has led Rolling Ridge as executive director for 11 years, will retire as of June 30.
“The Board was impressed with Melinda Trotti's strong resume, whichshows years of experience in both roles as the executive director and as interim director in a variety of Christian conference retreat and camping centers,” saidSam Johnson,nominated chair of the Rolling Ridge Board of Directors. “Her references were impeccable – showing a person who is competent and personable. Those same qualities came through in our video and phone interviews with her.”
Trotti, who lives in Pacific Palisades, CA, most recently served as interim director ofColby Ranch and Aldersgate Retreat Centers in the California-Pacific Conference of The United Methodist Church.Prior to that she served as director of the Life Enrichment Center in the Florida Conference.
“We feel she will be able to maintain the high quality of leadership we have come to expect at the Ridge, and make the transition time between Larry and the next executive director a productive and promising time,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the members of the search committee (listed below) are in the process of working on ajob description for the executive director, and expect to be reviewing finalists’ resumes in the fall. It is hoped the new permanent director will start work in January 2017. Trotti is not a candidate for that position.
Johnson said he hopes that Trotti will be able to “help us evaluate and vision – look ahead to what we need to be doing in the next stage, as well as sustaining with what's already happening.”
Trotti talked about how she sees the role of interim director.
“An interim director can come in with the perspective of being there completely for the ministry, because their decisions aren’t based on their own personal long-term wellbeing,” she said. “My job is to come in as, in some ways, a place holder and evaluator until the permanent director comes in; to keep the site moving in the right direction while the Board and the Conference have the time to look for the right person for the position.”
Johnson said among the qualities they were seeking in an interim director was someone who would be “supportive and sensitive to the staff here,knowing that, of anybody, they’re probably the ones that will be the most anxious. We feel at this point we have a good staff, and we want to strengthen and support that."
Trotti agreed the transition presents a challenge.
“I don’t think it’s a huge challenge;I just think that it requires flexibility – both on part of the leader and flexibility on the part of those who will be transitioning to a new leadership style for six months and then to yet a different leadership style after that six months is up. My role is, really, to be that calm and confident presence in midst of all that,” she said. “I’ll be doing a lot of listening.”
And, Trotti said, that’s a role she’s comfortable with.
“I am definitely the person who wants to get to know the people involved,” she said. “Some people are going to say ‘show me your financial spreadsheet’ first or ‘walk me through the physical plant’ first; I tend to be the person who says, ‘Let's sit and talk first.’”
Trotti, a native of Mississippi,has a bachelor’s degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management from the University of Southern Mississippi. She also has two master’s degrees: From Simmons College in Boston and Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge.
“My goals are to support the staff, support the board, and to be present to the guests that come – whether they’re new guests or long-term guests who have certain expectations of the site,” Trotti said. “My goal is to make sure that all the guests that come are able to have the experience that they need to have, and to create the space to offer Christian hospitality.”
Trotti defined Christian hospitality as including “both the basics of taking care of human needs – clean rooms, good food, bathrooms that work – but also that other piece: we're here to offer hospitality so that we meet not just your physical needs, but create a space where you can meet your spiritual needs as well.”
The role Camp and Retreat Ministry plays in meeting those spiritual needs is why Trotti said she’s always eager to learn about a site’s history:
“It’s wonderful to hear that history, because I know that history is one of children and adults being touched and being changed and being transformed, and having a chance to connect with nature and be outside and reconnect with who they are and what God wants them to do. And that’s just a lot of fun. You get to say, ‘yeah, thousands of people have been touched by this particular place.’”
“And that’s why I think Camp and Retreat Ministry is so special,” she said, “because I’ll never individually know all of those thousands, but there is something amazingly sweet about being able to serve in a place where that many people were touched in amazing ways.”
Trottisaid she understands the strong sense of community and empowerment that develops in a retreat setting.
“Camp and Retreat Ministry people have such strong feelings about it, because it did touch them and it was transformative, and so, in a lot of ways, my job is just to show up and offer a place for them to have those experiences – and that's really my job:To create that container for those experiences,” she said.
Her husband knows something about that as well. Trotti is married to the Rev. David Berkey, director of Camp and Retreat Ministry in the Cal-Pac Conference.
“We’re going to be doing a cross-country marriage for the time I'm there,” Trotti said, but expects her husband will have opportunities to visit.
And she’s looking forward to the change in climate.
“New England is best place in the whole United States to be in October,” she said. “I love fall in New England.”
And after that, there’s the snow:
“I did just buy – this is a total impulse buy – snowshoes. I’m determined there’s going to be enough snow before I leave that I can do some real exploring in the area,” she said. “ … whether it’s walking on the beach or bike riding, or cross country skiing, hiking – being outdoors and connecting with nature is just something that I love … People in California think that if it drops below 60, it’s too cold to go out, but going out in the cold or in a bathing suit – either one is great for me.”
Search Committee for Executive Director at Rolling Ridge
From the Rolling Ridge Board of Directors: Sam Johnson, nominatedboard chair; Charles McCrea, and Rachel Fisher, who was board chair and will now serve as chair of the search committee.
UM clergy: Nizzi Santos-Digan
Ecumenical clergy: Judy Proctor, UCC
Community member: Kathy Stevens
Staff member: Danny Smith (or delegate)
New England UMC Conference staff: Erica Robinson-Johnson