Dianne Ensminger, CEO of Ballard Community Center Inc. since 1999, was appointed to political office at 21, re-elected after a successful campaign, but knew politics wasn’t for her.
Born in Fairfax, Mo., Ensminger worked at Nodaway County Appraiser’s Office while earning a finance degree at Northwestern Missouri State University.
“When the county appraiser left the position early, Governor Ashcroft appointed me,” she says.
“I ran my own re-election campaign and served the county for seven years but knew my heart wasn’t really in appraising or in holding political office. I felt more drawn to the nonprofit world.”
Ensminger became executive director of Community Services Inc. in Maryville, Mo., then served as West Central Missouri Youth Services director for seven years.
“I found exactly what I was looking for,” she says. “My passion is for nonprofits, especially those involving children and youth.”
Ensminger drove to Lawrence in 1999 to be interviewed by the Ballard board.
“They wanted someone with a heavy background in early education and administration,” she says. “I’d spent 10 years of my career doing just that, serving agencies that covered multiple counties, but I left the interview telling myself having a single Lawrence site without federal funding sources wasn’t my cup of tea.”
Despite the drawbacks, Ensminger found herself working out strategies on how to help Ballard on the six-hour drive back to Hannibal, Mo.
“When the board offered me the job, I turned it down three times before I realized that for some reason I was really drawn and destined to come here,” she says. “I feel it’s my destiny to help carry out Ballard’s mission to provide high-quality, affordable early education programs and essential basic life needs and assistance for needy families and individuals.”
Under Ensminger’s 12-year watch, Lawrence Emergency Services Council, Penn House and Brookcreek Learning Center have been incorporated into the Ballard Center Inc., and plans are under way to build and open the Petey Cerf Early Education Center for Children and Families.
Despite the high-energy involved in doing her job, running with her dog and supporting her elderly mother, Ensminger found time to complete the studies interrupted by her early political appointment. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nonprofit leadership and administration and an MBA from Rockhurst University, Kansas City, Mo., in 2006.
“It’s important for me to understand the business and financial world, in order to make the best use of all our resources to meet the needs,” she says.
“There’s nothing worse than telling someone we can’t help them. We try everything we can to ensure we find ways to help and support families in need.”