After celebrating its 20th Anniversary of community leadership development in the greater Pasadena area this year, Leadership Pasadena (LP) is marking a change in its own leadership with the transition of its Executive Director role from Cynthia (Cindy) Bengtson to Kaya Plansker.
Bengtson, a LP Class of 2017 graduate, took the reins when the organization had twelve class members and six Board members. In three years, she has grown the organizations’ graduating class size to 22 and the Board stands at 13 members. Bengtson also initiated a 6-month specialized Community Leadership Course for Veterans program, garnering support from new sponsors and empowering military veterans to serve and lead in their new civilian community.
Last year, Leadership Pasadena created two signature events — a designer showcase in partnership with the Junior League of Pasadena and a speaker luncheon on community building held at Caltech’s Athenaeum. A believer in collaboration and relationships, Bengtson focused on LP’s role in leadership development and community service for the greater Pasadena area. Cindy will be joining LP’s Advisory Council to continue to support the organization.
“Under Cindy’s leadership, we have seen Leadership Pasadena grow tremendously and become an even greater asset to the community,” says outgoing Leadership Pasadena Board Chair, Josh Driskell.
Former Mayor Bill Bogaard stated, “Pasadena owes Cindy Bengtson a debt of gratitude for her energetic and enlightened leadership. She is a poster person for what LP intends to do! In three years, she has doubled its Board and its graduating classes, and has established the new Community Leadership for Veterans. LP has never been as prominent and productive as it is today, and we will all benefit for many years.”
The incoming Executive Director is also a Leadership Pasadena alumna (Class of 2019). Kaya Plansker brings a skillset perfectly suited for this time of growth for the organization. After spending 15 years at advertising agencies facilitating branding and marketing for corporations like PepsiCo, AEG Presents, Samsung, and Starbucks, Plansker pivoted into community communication, receiving her Masters in Human Development (with a focus on Social Change) from Pacific Oaks College. For the last few years, Plansker has engaged with her community in Pasadena, consulting for early childhood development networks, Growing Together PASadena and All Children Thrive, while also doing research for foundations and corporations looking to invest in complex social justice initiatives.
Plansker credits Leadership Pasadena for opening her eyes to the history, unique fingerprint, and opportunities for growth within her backyard.
“Before the program, I was a resident of Pasadena. After the program, I want to be more engaged and accountable to the community,” says Plansker. “In this time of disruption to our daily life, I believe we will need community leadership more than ever before. I am looking forward to continuing the connection with our many current LP friends and supporters as well as exploring new ways to build collaborations within the City and support a strong leadership network that represents and serves the diverse needs of Pasadena.”
Leadership Pasadena incoming Board Chair, Mary Spellman comments, “This is an exciting time for Leadership Pasadena. The Pasadena community, like the world, has been tested and now more than ever needs committed, service-oriented leaders. Building on our 20+ years of developing leaders for Pasadena, Leadership Pasadena is poised to help our great city thrive and prosper now and in the future.”