By Rich Pollack
Kirsten Stanley doesn’t shy away from challenges.
At 39, she is executive vice president of Delray Beach-based Meisner Electric, making daily operational and administrative decisions that affect the company’s customers and more than 350 employees in Florida and Colorado.
She is also battling stage 4 breast cancer — an illness she speaks about openly, and one she is determined to keep from interfering as much as possible with her day-to-day life.
Since May, she has been president of the Junior League of Boca Raton, a 700-member organization going through one of the most significant organizational changes in its almost 45-year history.
“Being president wasn’t my goal,” says Stanley, a 13-year member of the Junior League. “But the more involved I got, the more passionate I became.”
The daughter of a Lutheran minister and a college president — her mother is president of Ferrum College in Virginia — Stanley grew up in Boca Raton. She was graduated from the international baccalaureate program at Atlantic High School, where she met her husband of 10 years, Thomas Stanley (currently a commissioner for the Town of Gulf Stream).
After graduating with a degree in economics from Duke University, she moved to New York City where she worked for a large Wall Street firm for a few years before coming back home.
“I learned to appreciate the wonderful things in Florida,” says Stanley, a Gulf Stream resident who starts her day with a walk or jog.
It was after she returned that she sought out the Junior League as a way to get more deeply involved in her community.
Since then Stanley has served on a variety of league committees, ranging from the finance committee and new member committee and the board of directors.
Before becoming president, she served on a planning committee studying the Junior League of Boca Raton’s organizational structure, in place since its inception in 1971.
The league was run by a board of directors, which had responsibility for setting the vision and the organization’s direction. Without a management team in place, the board also had responsibility for implementing that vision.
This year the league voted to split the board into a strategic governance body and a tactical management team.
For the first time, the organization has a managing director and for the first time it has a president — Stanley — who will serve a two-year term instead of just a one-year term.
“I felt very invested in this split,” Stanley said, explaining why she agreed to lead the board through the transition.
That the transition comes at a time when the league is implementing a new member database and website doesn’t make the shift any easier.
“It doesn’t intimidate me,” Stanley says in a voice that is calming, yet confident. “I know there will be challenges and there will be mistakes, but that’s OK. You have to take ownership of those mistakes and say ‘Where do we go now?’ ”
Being president during the transition is also a chance for her to maintain a focus on something other than her health.
“It’s been an opportunity for me to step away from my own concerns,” she says.
Her health is, of course, a major concern for Stanley and her husband, who has been her rock through her challenges. Radiation treatments and frequent trips to her oncologist in Miami are part of her routine.
There also are the emotional battles that have to be fought.
“I have moments of tremendous resentment,” she says. “I feel my body has betrayed me, but I don’t want to dwell on that.”
Through her volunteer work with the Junior League, Stanley says, she has seen others facing challenges who don’t have the same resources that are available to her. “So there are moments that allow me to say I’m lucky,” she says.
To help her unwind at the end of a tough week, Stanley goes horseback riding, a passion she calls her escape and her therapy.
Next month, Stanley will be on hand as the Junior League of Boca Raton hosts the 28th annual Woman Volunteer of the Year luncheon Nov. 6 at the Boca Raton Resort & Club. For Stanley, being involved in the community through the Junior League and supporting other organizations are as much about receiving as giving.
“The volunteer things I do and that Tom does, those are the things that enrich our lives,” she said.
If You Go
What: Junior League of Boca Raton Woman Volunteer of the Year Luncheon
When: 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Nov. 6.
Where: The Boca Raton Resort & Club
Why: The Woman Volunteer of the Year event will honor women from more than 30 Palm Beach County nonprofit organizations for their commitment to the community. One woman will be chosen as the Woman Volunteer of the Year. A Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to one volunteer nominated in this category.
Event chairwomen: Debbie Abrams and Elizabeth Grace; Honorary Chairwoman Deb Tarrant
Tickets: $95 to $250