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The story of Barbara Mitchell, Interim’s outgoing executive director, shows just how much one can learn on the job.

Outgoing Interim Executive Director Barbara Mitchell.

Outgoing Interim Executive Director Barbara Mitchell.

Rey Mashayekhi here, encouraging you all to read my colleague Pam Marino’s excellent Face-to-Face feature this week with Barbara Mitchell, the departing executive director of the local mental health services nonprofit Interim, Inc.

As a relative newcomer to Monterey County, I wasn’t previously familiar with Interim, which provides affordable housing, treatment and support services to adults living with mental illness. But I instantly recognized it as the kind of nonprofit endeavor that fills critical gaps in social services too often overlooked or unmet by overstretched and underfunded government agencies.

It’s often hard, thankless work that requires selfless, dedicated people like Mitchell, a former social worker who began at Interim in 1979 before taking the helm of the organization in 1984. Beyond spotlighting Interim’s work, what makes the interview so insightful is Mitchell’s reflections on her early days in the job, when she became executive director virtually “by accident” despite admittedly knowing “nothing” about leading such an organization.

Thirty-nine years later, Mitchell is leaving a nonprofit that, under her watch, has built more than 20 facilities and maintains more than 300 beds for some of Monterey County’s most vulnerable residents. (Mitchell, naturally, had no real estate background previously.) “It’s really been more than a job—it’s been a calling, not in a religious sense,” she says. “I have gained probably as much or more than I’ve put in doing this work here.”

I guess faking it until you make it (and asking for help when you need it) can get you pretty far, after all. I hope you enjoy the interview, and have a wonderful weekend.

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