Editorial | Sandra Cotterell: Our apostle of health, innovation

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A changing of the guard is coming at Codman Square Health Center, one of the city’s key outposts for health care, education, and civic engagement.

Last week, Sandra Cotterell, who has led Codman since 2011, announced that she plans to retire in the coming months, ending a stellar, four-decade-long career in the field, which includes nearly thirty years in Dorchester.

Cotterell can point to many accomplishments in her tenure, but like many in her profession, leading Codman and the wider community through the Covid crisis will certainly be near the top of the list. During the tense early weeks and months of the pandemic, when many of us were looking to local leaders for calm, steady guidance, Sandra Cotterell stood tall and made Codman a safe harbor in a storm of uncertainty and grief. She was a sought-after source of information for those of us here at the Reporter who were trying to make sense of a rapidly evolving crisis. And she led the health center’s impressive roll-out of services – including testing and vaccine distribution when it became available.

In addition to her steady hand through Covid, Cotterell can point to other impressive achievements. On her watch, the health center’s annual revenue tripled to over $51 million; she led an $18 million expansion project that includes the new home of the adjacent Codman Academy Charter Public High School; and she shepherded the opening of the non-profit grocery store The Daily Table, and other assets in Codman Square. She kept Codman innovative and did all of this while serving as a valued board member on eight health and community organizations.

In relaying her retirement news, Cotterell also made it clear that she does not intend to leave Codman and its many programs without a strong succession plan. Just as she took the reins from Codman co-founder Bill Walczak after his long tenure, Cotterell and her exceptionally good board have planned well ahead of time to find a suitable replacement before she steps to the sidelines. They’ve retained a national search firm to seek candidates – a process that is now underway. She’ll stay on until the choice is made.

“The board of directors and staff will be forever grateful to Sandra for her service and leadership as well as positioning the Health Center for its next chapter,” said Robert MacEachern, who leads the Codman board. “We are in a strong position…and we are pleased that Sandra will remain to help with a smooth transition to her successor.”

We are grateful to Sandra Cotterell and her family for her unwavering dedication to caring for the people of Dorchester. Codman Square and the greater Boston community is better off because she chose to make this neighborhood the singular focus of her long and distinguished career. Thank you – and best of luck in your next chapter.

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