Spend some time on Mike Ritz’s LinkedIn profile, and you’ll get the picture: He is a creative leader with a diverse history which includes a background in areas such as military intelligence, public relations, and community outreach. He’s also one of the guys behind the much-loved initiative Save Chocolateville, creator of the annual celebration, I Heart Providence, and co-host of RI Food Fights.
Serving as Executive Director for Leadership Rhode Island (LRI) since 2009, and as a member of their Board of Governors for two years prior, it’s clear that Mike’s commitment to his community is unwavering. LRI’s core program is, according to Ritz, a “diverse group of established and aspiring leaders asked to participate in a thought-provoking, ten-month community leadership program framed around servant leadership.”
“Leadership Rhode Island has been bringing together leaders from different sectors to work on critical state issues for over 30 years. I'm honored to be the Executive Director of such a forward thinking organization that serves as the conscience for Rhode Island.” – Mike Ritz
In addition to Ritz’s position at LRI, he was recently appointed by the Secretary of Defense to serve as Rhode Island State Chairman for the Employer Support of the Guard & Reserve (ESGR). This volunteer-driven organization is the only Department of Defense- funded agency to assist Guard and Reserve members in obtaining employment.
Mike’s immediate neighborhood benefits from his involvement as well. He’s an active member of the West Broadway Neighborhood Association (WBNA), which offers participation in events, community development initiatives, rentals on equipment and space to its members, as well as participation in the development of West Side Play Space, a co-op indoor preschool play space.
An exciting 2013
When asked what he’s looking forward to in 2013, Ritz talks about the annual Leadership Rhode Island Leaders Award Luncheon, scheduled for March 7th and honoring Neil Steinberg of RI Foundation, Kobi Dennis of Project Night Vision, Carol Young, retired Deputy Executive Editor of The Providence Journal, and Ysanet Batista, a senior at JWU who has “committed to volunteer work in Rhode Island in extraordinary ways.” This year's event will be especially meaningful because the graduates of Leadership Central Falls, a special customized one-time program to help revive the formerly bankrupt municipality, will announce their vision for the future of their city.
He also talks about next year’s I Heart Providence celebration. Mike says, “People need to prepare for this theme early. The theme will be ‘I HEART PROVIDENCE: Will you marry me?’ We will convert Providence City Hall into the largest wedding chapel in the state for two hours in February 2014. Attendees will have the opportunity to propose, renew vows, marry one another, marry the city, marry an idea/concept, you get the idea. Express your love publicly and commit!”
My own interaction with Mike Ritz has been a pleasure. He took the time to thoughtfully and thoroughly answer my questions while balancing his busy schedule and personal life. (He recently celebrated 13 years with his fiancée, Elaine.) He also thanked me for reaching out and recognizing the work they are doing. A class act, in this writer’s opinion.
When asked for a quote, Ritz offers, “In the words of self-educated longshoreman, Eric Hoffer, ‘In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.’ And while you're learning, have fun!”
To learn about Leadership Rhode Island
To learn about Save Chocolateville
To learn about I Heart Providence
To learn about RI Food Fights
To learn about West Broadway Neighborhood Association (WBNA)