Susannah Driver-Barstow, EFA’s much-appreciated general manager, is retiring this summer.
“Susannah has been the chief operating force behind EFA for the last ten years,” says Bill Keenan, out-going EFA co-executive. “She manages the staff and has run the day-to-day operations of the association with a thorough knowledge of where it’s going and where it’s been. She interacts with both board members and members with an openness and consideration that helps to get things done.”
If you want to get something done in EFA, but you’re unsure how to proceed, a familiar refrain is: “Ask Susannah. She’ll know.”
Susannah began as EFA’s sole employee about 10 years ago. She had been a freelance editor and EFA member. She had served on the Board for a year when the previous office manager chose to retire.
“I was just ready for a change from freelancing,” she says. “I had certain knowledge of the organization and how things work that were needed in that position. I was interested in giving it a try. I never expected I’d do it for 10 years.”
Over Susannah’s tenure, our membership has increased by about 100 percent to more than 3,000. EFA’s Board has grown since Susannah started as we’ve added Committees of Record, such as the Diversity Initiative.
Our office staff has also grown. In 2017 EFA hired Christina Shideler to help in the office. We later split her job into two part-time jobs and hired Vina Orden in 2019. In 2020 we hired Juliana McArdle. Susannah oversees all of their work, remotely now since the start of the pandemic.
“Susannah has been a joy to work with and unquestionably the best boss I’ve ever had,” says Christina Shideler, membership and programs coordinator. “I’m continually impressed with her ability to juggle the myriad tasks to keep the organization running, while remaining kind and understanding to all.”
Some of our programs, such as the Education program, have also expanded in the last decade. When Susannah started with EFA, we still offered in-person classes in the New York City office. In spring 2021 we had 1,323 students in our online courses, the highest number of participants in EFA history.
Sheila Buff, who oversaw the Discussion List and the Job List for about 20 years until the start of this year, says, “Susannah’s exemplary managerial skills have kept EFA running smoothly as volunteers came and went, as new initiatives led to new challenges, as we hired talented new staff and moved to a new office, and as we dealt with COVID.”
Susannah was an integral part of the website redesign and keeping it updated both for function and content. The rate survey completed in 2020 was another large project Susannah contributed to, as was the 2019 conference in Chicago and the move to a new office in 2019.
Susannah has most enjoyed the members of EFA. “It’s a wonderful community,” she says. “I love that people support each other and care about the careers of their colleagues and also the field of editorial freelancing. I think there’s something irreplaceable about being able to talk to your colleagues who are actually doing what you do.”
Once her successor is hired and oriented, Susannah and her husband will begin the process of moving out of New York City, where she has lived since birth, upstate to a very small town where they’ve had a house for many years. She intends to expand her volunteer involvement with environmental and voting rights groups there.
“I am going to greatly miss working with our terrific staff,” Susannah says, “and the extremely talented and committed Board members I’ve come to know over the years.”
“Susannah has been so much more than a paid employee,” says Robin Martin, chair of the Publications Committee. “She has really held the organization together over the last 10 years. Susannah is truly committed to the people and the mission of EFA. She’s been the glue that has held all the parts of this organization together through our tremendous growth and movement into the twenty-first century.”
Susannah has set a high bar for her successor.
Secretary, EFA Board of Governors