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Richardson to succeed Bell as acting executive director for Ascendigo

Dan Richardson has been named acting CEO for Ascendigo Autism Services.

Peter Bell is stepping down as executive director of Carbondale-based Ascendigo Autism Services after four years, and current Chief Operating Officer Dan Richardson has been tabbed to become acting CEO.

Bell is to remain as senior adviser to the organization until Oct. 1 to assist with the leadership transition, according to a news release from the nonprofit organization.

Bell has served as Ascendigo’s president and CEO since 2017. He is leaving to pursue new opportunities and spend more time with his family, according to the release.



“We are grateful for the many contributions Peter brought to Ascendigo during his tenure and also appreciate his desire to pursue new opportunities,” Sallie Bernard, Ascendigo’s founder and board chair, said in the release.

“Thanks to Peter, Ascendigo is on firm ground with a solid leadership team in place that will carry us into the future,” she said. “Peter also established many frameworks, relationships and opportunities for Ascendigo that were developed over his lengthy career as a thought leader and change-maker in the field of autism advocacy. We wish him and his family the very best.”

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Bell said he is proud of Ascendigo’s accomplishments during his tenure and said he appreciated working alongside the staff and board of directors.

The move comes two months after Ascendigo was denied by Garfield County commissioners in its land-use request to develop a youth summer camp and year-round program facility in eastern Missouri Heights. The plan was met with stiff opposition from the residential neighborhoods surrounding the 126-acre site northwest of El Jebel on the Garfield-Eagle county line.

Ascendigo vowed afterward to press on in its attempts to establish a permanent camp facility elsewhere in the region. In the meantime, it has continued to base its summer camp at the Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley campus between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs.

“We live in a wonderful community that cares deeply about helping autistic individuals,” Bell said in the release. “I have no doubt that Ascendigo will continue to be a force in the Roaring Fork Valley and a source of inspiration for families affected by autism everywhere.”

Richardson has served as the COO for Ascendigo since 2018. He also is the current elected mayor of Carbondale, where he lives.

As part of the administrative shuffle, Julie Kaufman, formerly the director of development, will take on the broader chief development officer duties for Ascendigo.

Kaufman, who also handles public relations for Ascendigo, said Tuesday that the board does not plan to actively recruit for a permanent CEO. The “acting” title for Richardson is to allow time to evaluate the organization’s new leadership structure while Bell is still in an advisory role, she said.

“Dan has demonstrated exceptional leadership skills, along with an intimate knowledge of Ascendigo’s work and an unwavering commitment to our mission,” Kaufman said. “The board will remain very involved in the leadership transition and has chosen the title of acting CEO so that both they and Mr. Richardson have the time to evaluate the new leadership structure and continue to make decisions in the best interests of Ascendigo and the families we serve.”

Rounding out the Ascendigo executive team are Malcolm McMichael, chief financial officer; Mathew McCabe, director of adventures and curriculum; Michael Pittinaro, clinical director; Soozie Lindbloom, human resources manager; and Kim Wells, finance manager.

More information about Ascendigo is available at Ascendigo.org.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.


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