Each year, the Charlotte Business Journal’s editorial staff reflects on Charlotte’s top stories – including the biggest local newsmakers, people who’ve pushed the Queen City forward and leaders positioned to have an impact in the coming year.


United Way of Central Carolinas President and CEO Laura Clark was atop the publication’s list of Who to Watch in 2019. Here’s an excerpt from the article published on December 28, 2018:


Change was the one constant at United Way of Central Carolinas in 2018. A three-year shift toward more neighborhood improvement and economic mobility programs and nonprofits concentrating on those areas took shape when United Way reduced and revamped its grant awards last summer.


Soon after those changes took hold, the nonprofit’s top executive, Sean Garrett, disclosed he was leaving to run the United Way chapter in Chicago. Garrett came to Charlotte in 2015. The board soon named Laura Clark, Garrett’s top deputy, as the new chief executive, effective in September.


Clark began her second stint with United Way in October 2016, weeks after the fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, which roiled racial tensions and exposed economic inequality and segregation as deep problems here here. As chief impact officer, Clark had helped start two community programs: United Neighborhoods, focusing on jobs, health care and other essential needs in struggling areas; and United Charlotte, aimed at improving racial equity and social capital.


Prior to that, Clark was CEO of the nonprofit Renaissance West Community Initiative. That role put her in charge of an organization charged with overhauling a former public-housing project at West Boulevard and Billy Graham Parkway. In her previous job, as director of The Larry King Center at the Council for Children’s Rights, Clark worked on community planning and public policy programs.


All of Clark’s experience with United Way and other nonprofit agencies makes her confident she is prepared to be CEO of one of the city’s most influential philanthropic groups.


The mission, she said, is clear.


“I think United Way has to do two things,” Clark said. “One is, we have to continue to be seen as one of the most relevant partners to improve economic mobility in this community. And making sure that we are seen as a resource in the community, that we are looked to as a leader in that charge with our partner agencies and in our neighborhood work. That’s first and foremost.


“Second to that, I think it is making sure we have a fundraising model that’s going to support that and that we’re able to bring in the dollars that are going to change the trajectory for children and families in this community.”


View the rest of the Charlotte Business Journal’s list here.


Read more about Laura Clark in our Q&A with her here.