Featured Stories, Lutherans in Minnesota

Harpstead named new CEO at LSS

After an extensive, three-year CEO succession planning and national selection process, the board of directors of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSS) has selected Jodi Harpstead as the next president and CEO of the state’s oldest and largest nonprofit human service organization. Harpstead is currently the chief operating officer of the organization and earlier its chief advancement officer. She will succeed Mark Peterson who has served as the organization’s leader for the past 24 years.

Starting September 2, Harpstead will lead 2,400 employees and 10,000 volunteers in delivering a wide range of human services that reflect the organization’s mission to “inspire hope, change lives, and build community.” Each year, nearly 100,000 persons across Minnesota receive support and service from LSS. These services cover the life-span and are all community based. This year, the organization’s operating budget is $100,000,000.

Jodi Harpstead; photo provided by Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota

“I am thrilled and humbled to accept the leadership of this magnificent organization,” Harpstead told Metro Lutheran. “And I ask God to help and guide me,” she added.

Harpstead joined Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota in 2004 as its chief advancement officer to lead the capital campaign for the new Center for Changing Lives in Minneapolis, a unique innovation — unlike any other nationwide — that opened in 2008 to combine affordable housing, a faith community and comprehensive social services on a single campus to serve the greater Twin Cities community. In 2007 she became the executive vice president and chief operating officer and is noted for building an operational philosophy of breakthrough and deep employee engagement within the organization.

“This decision by the LSS board is the capstone on my career,” Peterson told Metro Lutheran. “Mark and I have been working together as CEO and COO for four years,” said Harpstead. “Both internal and external constituents are used to seeing us work together,” which should allow Harpstead to hit the ground running. “[Mark] taught me all I know about nonprofit management.”

Such a stable environment may be important given the budget challenges facing the state of Minnesota and its nonprofits. “Surely we have some enormous and tough decisions to make, given the status of the [state of Minnesota’s] budget,” Harpstead acknowledged. “But God has led LSS through 22 recessions, the Great Depression, 146 years of state legislative sessions, and we are still here. God has provided and will continue to do so.”

LSS has a past and a future

Harpstead, a native of Chicago, has served for 23 years in executive positions with Medtronic, including as president of global marketing and U.S. sales in the Cardiac Rhythm Management Division. She earned a Masters of Business Administration in Finance from Michigan State University.

Externally, Harpstead serves as vice chair of the board of regents of Augsburg College, co-chairing their capital campaign. She has volunteered in leadership capacities for a variety of other organizations, including the Plymouth Christian Youth Center, the Girl Scout Council of the St. Croix Valley, the Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Mutual Funds board of trustees, and her own congregation, the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Roseville, Minnesota.

“We conducted a national search and are delighted to find that we have the absolute finest person to lead this organization right under our own roof,” said Jim Vos, board chair of LSS. “With a unanimous decision by the board, we are looking forward to her creative and talented leadership as the new president and CEO of this exceptional organization.”

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota began its work in 1865 when a Lutheran pastor near Red Wing, Minnesota, and his congregation opened an orphanage for children in need. Today, the statewide organization seeks to provide safe and supportive homes for children, community living for people with disabilities, services for older adults that maintain well-being, a welcome for refugees, financial services, and a number of other types of assistance. The vision of the organization is to ensure that all Minnesotans live and work in community with dignity, safety, and hope.

Even with the challenges currently facing the state, Harpstead is excited about the future of LSS. “We have a highly creative workforce and extensive volunteer networks statewide that are deeply committed to insuring that all people live and work in community in Minnesota,” she said. “I look forward to being surrounded and supported by the employees and volunteers involved in this organization, as we work with the people of Minnesota as they care for their neighbor.”

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