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Farewell Letter from Tracy Elliott

Dear Friends of Asheville Humane Society,

My career began in August of 1983 at a small college-prep boarding school in northern Indiana, just outside of Chicago. Thirty-two years and five jobs in four different fields later, I became the executive director of Asheville Humane Society. At the end of this week, I will leave Asheville to return to the Midwest to be closer to my aging parents. I will become president of The Anti-Cruelty Society of Chicago, a 120-year-old animal welfare organization located in downtown Chicago. Some journeys end where they began, but the detours are the real story of the journey.

It has been a high honor to lead Asheville Humane Society for almost four years. I have loved this job and the people with whom I work every one of those 1,388 days. We have experienced heartaches, but we have had many, many more amazing triumphs, lives saved and improved - both animals and people. We are truly about hope, not heartache. 

The greatest discovery of all for me is something I already knew but never thought about - the potential of the human/animal bond to heal, empower, and enhance human lives, even in the most challenging of circumstances to make life worth living. What AHS does for people is equally or perhaps more powerful and impactful as what we do for animals. That is what we have discovered in our work in disadvantaged neighborhoods in Asheville. We are doing that work because we believe that pets and their people deserve a safe and healthy community in which to live and thrive together. Let me tell you, if you don’t already know, that something really important is going on here in Asheville that can change the world. 

Thanks to each and every one of you for this truly remarkable experience. I am grateful to a Board of Directors who took a chance on me and supported me in every way. Thanks to the kindness of donors and volunteers who have taught me the true meaning of compassion. 

I will always have a special place in my heart for my colleagues, the amazing people who work here for not-enough-pay and too-much-stress but have hearts so big and passion so real that it astounded me every day. Every one of them is my hero. 

I cannot fully express my gratitude to all of you. 

I am also grateful that John Haas, the AHS Chair of the Board when I was hired, has agreed to be interim executive director until a permanent executive director is hired. John knows AHS and our people and cares very deeply about the organization. I can leave feeling totally confident that all will be well. If you don’t already know John, you will realize instantly when you meet him that he has a good and true heart and remarkable leadership ability. You are in very, very good hands. 

Together, we have moved AHS beyond no-kill, beyond the gimmick of a label or the rigidity of an ideology that exploits animals for our gain. We ensure a life worth living for every animal who is entrusted to our care and to thousands of animals in the community who can remain with their families who love them thanks to our support. Every achievement of the past 1,388 days, and before that stretching to the founding of this organization in 1984, is an achievement of “we”, not “me”. Thousands of people, millions of contributed dollars, lots of sweat and tears (and even a little blood) have brought us to this point, and will maintain AHS as a premier leader in the animal welfare field, deeply respected and emulated throughout the country. 

That I have had the privilege of playing a small role in this amazing story has made my life worth living. 


Tracy L. Elliott

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