Sylva, NC – Hello, I am Joe Rigdon, Chief Executive Officer at WestBridge Vocational (formerly Webster Enterprises). We recently said goodbye to three life-long friends and board members that have combined to give more than 30 years of volunteer service. We have been fortunate to have these individuals be a part of our organization. Wendy Cagle, Frank Underwood, and Henry Dowling are champions for the disabled population that WestBridge serves, and their dedication has been vital in helping us achieve and sustain our mission of serving the disabled and disadvantaged. These board members volunteered selflessly during a time in our history when our organization needed them the most. We would like to share their reflections on the changes they have seen while serving at WestBridge Vocational.
When Wendy joined the Board, she was working for the Small Business & Technology Center (SBTC) located on the campus of Western Carolina University. She became familiar with Webster Enterprises when the SBTC was asked to help the organization with strategic planning. So moved by our mission, she joined the board to help further the cause. Wendy served for ten years.
“Webster Enterprises was going through some major difficulties that were caused by poor management and economic conditions. The facility was in disrepair, the service programs were being neglected and the company was headed for a complete failure. We first met with the previous CEO in March 2010 to discuss strategic planning on the request of MARC, Inc, an association that assists seventeen rehabilitation facilities in western NC. The desire was to develop an action plan to turn the company around and keep it in business.”
I now feel I am leaving the organization in a much better situation than when I first started.
– Wendy Cagle
During the spring 2010 semester Wendy asked Frank Lockwood’s senior Entrepreneurship students at the WCU College of Business, to conduct a “Best Practices” evaluation of ten of the members of MARC, Inc. Each student team visited a member organization and conducted an in-depth survey of how each entity conducted business. In all cases but one they found successful companies achieving their organizational goals. The exception was Webster Enterprises.
In September 2010, I joined Wendy and became a member of the Board of Directors of Webster Enterprises. CEO Gene Robinson had also recently returned to Webster, an organization that he founded in 1976 to help those with disabilities, for the purpose of breathing new life into a dying entity. As we view Webster Enterprises today (now WestBridge Vocational) all are happy to say the effort has been successful.
I consider my time as a member of the Webster Board to be the best volunteer engagement I have been part of during my tenure as a resident of our beloved mountains and as a professor at WCU.
– Frank Lockwood
“There are three efforts that stand above others. A critical deficiency in the management of Webster’s operations was a very sub-par accounting and financial statement capability. Several years ago, we were fortunate to have Mike Bowler bring his considerable expertise to solve this problem. Boy, has he been a successful part of breathing new life into Webster. We now have the financial information necessary to successful manage the business of WestBridge.
Another effort that stands out in my time with Webster was developing a very strong relationship with the Jackson County commissioners. Their willingness to support our efforts by providing grants and funding has been an important ingredient in our success. The last effort that I was involved with as a Board member was the transition in the leadership of Webster from Gene Robinson to Joe Rigdon. Webster came back to life and grew under Gene’s stewardship. Joe has taken Webster to its current level of continuing success. The future is bright.
As I attend my final Board meeting, I want to wish the Board, Joe and Mike and the other dedicated members of the management team, and most importantly our clients and employees continued success. The area served by WestBridge that includes Jackson, Macon, and Swain counties and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is fortunate to have our organization doing the good work of helping those citizens with disabilities and their families have a better life.”
Henry joined the Board of Directors in 2010, but his history with the organization started back in the 1970s when he was a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor in Jackson County. When Gene Robinson came on as CEO in 1982, it shortly progressed into a true vocational rehabilitation facility.
The biggest changes I’ve seen in the last 10 years have been the leadership and direction since Gene returned in the late nineties as CEO. That’s when the organization pursued a progression of better manufacturing contracts making medical devices instead of the sheltered workshop recycling center of the past. This shift resulted in better jobs for employees and trainees under vocational rehabilitation.
When Mike Bowler became CFO, he took a professional approach to funds and made the organization more accountable which led to going from being in the red to black. And now Joe Rigdon is leading the organization, along with an active board into the future. Leadership is key, and we are blessed to have a good team.
When they need me, I’ll be close by. I live nearby and will continue to do grill-outs and other volunteer services. I will be always be available to them as long as I’m around.
– Henry Dowling
From the Board
I am Dr. Cliff Faull, Chairman of the Board. I have had great pleasure working with Wendy, Frank, and Henry. When it comes to the WestBridge Board of Directors, I am one of the new guys on the block. I joined the WestBridge (then Webster Enterprises) Board of Directors five years ago thinking I knew a little about WestBridge. After a few board meetings, I realized how little I knew and understood, especially compared to these seasoned veterans.
I learned a lot from them about the mission and workings of WestBridge but was most impressed with their dedication and passion for WestBridge. They were always there and doing more than the minimum.
Since joining the Board I learned that Webster Enterprises, once a proud and recognized leader in the vocational rehabilitation field, with a change in leadership, had lost this respect and was close to closing. With the help of these three and others such as the return of Gene Robinson to the CEO position, the course was reversed. The mission and viability of Webster Enterprises had been restored and elevated to new levels. That is when I came aboard; the heavy lifting had been done.
The cumulative decades of service by these three that has been so constant and dependable since I became involved, will leave three pairs of shoes that will be hard to fill!