Following a National Search, Smart Start of Mecklenburg County Welcomes New CEO

May 2020

Dear friends and partners,

I write today to share great news on behalf of Smart Start.  Following a national search, led by Sockwell Partners, I am pleased to announce that the board has unanimously approved Mr. Jake House the new CEO of Smart Start of Mecklenburg County.

Jake has been in Charlotte since 2013 and developed a passion for education, and inequity in education, early in his career through his experience with Harlem Children's Zone. Jake holds an undergraduate degree in marketing, an MBA from the University of Michigan, and completed a prestigious 2-yr Broad Fellowship in Educational Leadership which takes outstanding managers across the country and trains them to lead in urban school districts.

"Jake brings experience and credibility having led both nonprofit and for-profit organizations. He has a unique mix of skills that the Board of Directors have identified as vital in our next leader and will position Smart Start as a leading advocate for young children. We are most excited for the children and families who will benefit from his leadership in the years to come." said Victoria Manning, board member and chair of the search committee.

Jake will begin his position on June 15, 2020.  "I am honored and humbled to lead the Smart Start organization. The need for our community to focus on our youngest citizens and their families was great prior to the pandemic we are living through. That need will only become magnified in the months and years ahead. I stand willing and motivated to help Smart Start and all of our partner agencies tackle the obstacles in front of us", comments House.

Smart Start of Mecklenburg County has undergone tremendous evolution over the years, and today it is responsible for administering nearly 30 state and community funded programs, The Basics Mecklenburg, Guiding Parents to Services, and the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.  In 2018, Smart Start launched MECK Pre-K, the County's universal pre-k program that currently provides early childhood education services to over 1,200 children.  Mecklenburg County's proposed budget will further increase capacity to 89 classrooms offering the ability to serve more than 1,600 children.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Mike Blackwelder from Patton McDowell & Associates for serving as our Interim Executive Director over the past 6 months.  Working closely with the board and staff, Mike was instrumental in maintaining operations, including safely navigating our response to COVID-19.  Jake and Mike will work closely over the next several weeks to ensure a smooth transition.

We are excited and confident that Jake is exactly the leader we need to continue enhancing Smart Start's role in our community.  On behalf of our board, thank you for your continued support and commitment to serving our children and families.


Dr. Cheryl L Richards

Board Chair
Smart Start of Mecklenburg County