Sue Lennox said it was with a sense of relief that she passed the role of OzGREEN CEO to Anton Juodvalkis.
“As soon as that decision was made, I honestly felt like I was 20 years younger,” she said.
Asked if it was intentional that the announcement was made on February 6, the second anniversary of her husband Colin’s death, Sue said no, but the events were certainly connected.
“That was a coincidence, actually,” she said, looking teary. “But I’m conscious that my capacity to do what I used to do is no longer present at this point in time.
“We were married for nearly 45 years, and partners in work and play. So it’s big.”
Science teachers Sue and Colin Lennox founded OzGREEN in 1992 and grew it into an independent not-for-profit that operates nationally and internationally, touching hundreds of thousands of people with its citizen science, sustainability education, participatory leadership and community development projects.
Colin died in 2017, aged 64, just seven weeks after being diagnosed with cancer.
Although the board stepped up to help, Sue has found being CEO hard to bear without her partner.
She described Anton’s availability as “the most amazing opportunity” and said she saluted his courage and commitment.
“It’s been really exciting since Anton came on, because we’ve just been bouncing ideas around, talking to each other 20 times a day,” she said.
Sue added it was important to stress that she is not “retiring”. She will stay intensively involved with OzGREEN’s flagship projects, Youth Leading the World, the Clean Ganges campaign and Bellingen Riverwatch.
And as cofounder, board member, and mentor for Anton she will continue playing a critical part in the organisation. But there will be a “progressive and gradual” transition.
Anton was previously the manager for governance and engagement at Bellingen Council, a job he left in September. He says the requirements of that position, plus his postgraduate studies, have set him up to take on the challenge of being OzGREEN’s CEO.
He’s studying a Master of Business Psychology and said an aspect of it dovetails with a skillset Sue and OzGREEN have been honing for decades – bringing a wide range of stakeholders together and providing a platform for them to find common ground and work towards shared goals.
“One of the areas [the course] focuses on is how do you bring diverse groups of people with very different perspectives and identities together to form a coherent strategy that works for everyone,” he said.
Anton said it was exciting to realise that OzGREEN has been doing exactly that for 25 years.
“It’s a great example of leading edge research in an academic context and really effective on-the-ground application of almost the same stuff that’s been developed through much more organic methods.”
OzGREEN’s proven programs have been recognised by the Buckminster-Fuller Catalyst Program, Eureka Prize, Banksia Awards, UN Media Peace Awards, Green Globe Awards, and UNESCO Wenhui Award Finalist 2016.