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Berneice Cox Named New United Way President/CEO


The United Way of the Big Bend has a new permanent president and CEO.  Berneice Cox has been holding down the interim role since Katrina Rolle resigned last summer.

Even if the United Way Board hadn't asked her to take over the slot temporarily, Cox says she would still be dedicated to the organization and its mission.

“After being a volunteer on the board of United Way of the Big Bend and past chair of the board, it’s very fulfilling,” she remarked. “And the fact that we made a shift to focusing on those in poverty and at the edge of poverty and are doing a major focus in that area, makes it something that really speaks to my heart.”

Especially, said Cox, because her personal story is very much a case of having been where so many United Way beneficiaries are.

“I was a single parent working a full-time job and two part-time jobs,” she explained. “I totally understand the struggle to make ends meet by trying to make sure that you have food on the table and utilities; all of that! Many of our neighbors in Tallahassee and the surrounding Big Bend area are sitting in that same situation.”

Of course, job one for every United Way chief is to raise money. A job, noted Cox, made more difficult for this United Way because of the demise of the state employees' campaign.

“It’s been a couple of years since we no longer had that. We need to look at many funding opportunities that can be available in addition to the donors who support us on a regular basis.”

Given her background as a legislative affairs liasion in both the private and public sectors, Cox has lots of connections with the lucrative lobbying firms that work the corridors of power in Tallahassee. “I have friends in that community, both at the statewide and national levels and I do believe that’s an area that could serve us well.”

And she sees the possibility of closer partnerships with some influential business advocates.

“Both the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce have seen the need for talent. I know the Florida Chamber of Commerce is looking at (the year) 2030. And when they’re looking at talent, they’re also looking at those who are the working poor. The limited-income-constrained-employed. What are their needs? How do they need to be prepared for the workforce in 2030? And those that we serve are a part of that discussion.”

In short, Berneice Cox has some ambitious and visionary ideas as she drops the qualifying term "Interim" from her title.

“When the board asked me to serve in the interim, I felt fortunate that I could take a few months off from my own business (The Bacall Group) to assist. And when they asked me to become an applicant, I was surprised and honored. It really caused me to look at this opportunity to lead Tallahassee’s and the Big Bend’s collective effort to address poverty. And I can’t think of any work that could be more fulfilling.”

That work begins in earnest January 1st.

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Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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