BAR HARBOR — The Maine Seascoast Mission has announced the appointment of John Zavodny as its next president. He is set to begin work Feb. 19, succeeding current President Scott Planting.
An academic with a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Tennessee, Zavodny has worked at Unity College in Unity for 18 years, most recently as chief of staff. He has also served as professor of philosophy and humanities, academic chair, director of the Center for Environmental Arts and Humanities.
Zavodny said he has been “blown away by the breadth and the power” of the Mission’s service work with coastal rural communities and unbridged islands. “Having done the same kind of work for so long is really impressive,” he said. “They are the leaders in that kind of service. The most important thing is to steward that legacy of trust and good service and hard work.”
He also appreciates that the 114-year-old organization is “not trying to do too much,” sometimes a risk in nonprofit work. “The Mission has done a great job of staying focused on who they serve.”
At Unity, Zavodny worked alongside the college’s president, focusing especially on communications and marketing. He said he enjoyed doing “institutional identity work” there. To him that means “finding the heart of the institution and finding ways to share those stories,” he said. “Storytelling is really about that interaction. It’s really a sharing experience. You’re not just telling the world your story and hoping they buy it or are impressed. When there’s co-ownership of the institutional story, that’s when it really gets fun.”
He also managed many of the college’s partnerships with groups such as the Maine Farmland Trust, the Camden Conference, WERU radio (where he serves as a board member) and Wooden Boat.
Most of the previous leaders of the Mission have been ordained clergy, and the organization still has spiritual and pastoral care as part of its mission. Zavodny did actually work as a minister in a non-denominational church after college, he said. In the years since, he’s taken “more of a comparative religions approach.”
“Honoring the spiritual legacy of the mission is not something to be taken lightly,” he said.
As president, Zavodny will oversee the operation of the Mission and its health, education and community-building programs delivered from campuses in Bar Harbor and Cherryfield and from the Sunbeam, a 74-foot boat. The organization is set to move its Mount Desert Island headquarters to Northeast Harbor upon completion of a new building there, to be shared with the nonprofit economic development group MD365.