President of National Association of Probation Executives Begins First Term

Article excerpt

At the July 2004 National Association of Probation Executives (NAPE) meeting in Orlando, Fla., held in conjunction with the Annual Training Institute of the American Probation and Parole Association, Cherie Townsend assumed the position of president of NAPE.

Currently, Townsend is the chief juvenile probation officer for the Superior Court of Arizona in Maricopa County, a position she has held since 1996. Her 30 years of experience in juvenile and community justice programs, including two years working with victims of violent crime, matched with a solid academic foundation (master's degree in public administration from Southern Methodist University, Dallas, and a bachelor's degree from Rockford College, Rockford, Ill., in psychology and child development), have prepared her to be a leader of leaders. She is also serving her second term as a commissioner on the American Correctional Association's Commission on Accreditation and was recently elected to serve on its executive committee. Having heard Townsend's inaugural speech in Orlando, I asked her if she would answer a few questions that would explain NAPE and the direction she envisions for that organization to Corrections Today readers.

Cherie, on the occasion of your assuming the presidency of NAPE, you told the delegates that you valued NAPE for a number of reasons and I would like you to expand on those reasons.

NAPE is a professional organization representing the chief executive officers of local, county and state adult and juvenile probation and parole agencies. The knowledge and experience of its members is the first reason I value the organization. NAPE members freely share their successes, their challenges, their ideas and their opinions with each other. That makes the organization an incredible source of expertise and creativity. Whenever I have faced a challenge or considered a new opportunity, the members of NAPE essentially became my teachers, coaches and consultants.

Secondly, I value NAPE because of the support that members show for one another. This support happens through professional development, mentoring and one-on-one conversations that occur between members throughout the year. The "Orientation for New Probation Executives," which is conducted biannually in partnership with the National Institute of Corrections and the Correctional Management Institute of Texas, is an excellent example of the support that is provided to new leaders as they assume executive positions in this field.

I also value the networking opportunities that are available through NAPE-sponsored events and through Executive Exchange, our quarterly newsletter. Finally, I continue to value the opportunities that are provided to the members of NAPE to contribute to our profession. NAPE is simply a great professional organization.

It appears that what you are valuing is, in essence, the development of an organization to meet the needs of this specific era. Would the concept of a virtual learning organization capture what you are thinking about when you identify the values of a professional organization such as NAPE?

I believe that the founders of NAPE designed it to be a virtual learning organization, though that is not how they described it at the time. NAPE is an organization with a focus on continual learning. And we seek to expand not only the capacity and skills of individual members, which might benefit their specific jurisdictions, but also the profession of community corrections as a whole. NAPE is certainly concerned about the present. We are also concerned about the future.

Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline, described leaders of learning organizations as designers, stewards and teachers. That describes NAPE's membership. The very nature of our organization causes us to be "virtual." As we begin to use technology to a greater degree, we will be an even more effective virtual learning organization. …