From Global to Local. A New Island Adventure 

By Michele Cato,
Executive Director, Island Senior Resources
It is with great pleasure and respect for Island Senior Resources’ accomplishments over the past 50 years that I have assumed a new role as its Executive Director. This is an exciting time to join ISR, and I am looking forward to collaborating with ISR’s Board, staff, volunteers, donors, and partners to usher in the next generation of service to Island County’s diverse and vulnerable communities. I am fortunate to be following in the foundational footsteps of Cheryn Weiser, ISR’s outgoing Executive Director, and am grateful for her current mentorship and inspirational guidance as I learn the ropes and get to know those we serve. In addition, I am privileged to be joining a highly competent and extremely dedicated team and am excited by the prospect of working alongside them to achieve our mission.
I am coming to Whidbey and Island Senior Resources after a challenging and rewarding 25-year career in global health and international development. I have had the privilege of working worldwide to advance the health and well-being of communities in Sub-Saharan Africa, China, Latin America, the Caribbean, Central Asia, and the Middle East. What they all have in common with Island County is the breadth and depth of need among vulnerable populations who lack affordable access to critical social services. My professional passion has been to tackle and overcome complex barriers to the Social Determinants of Health (e.g., quality healthcare, transportation, nutrition, knowledge, social connections, income, equity, self-efficacy) in collaboration with community stakeholders who share that vision.
I have been seeking a path home to the Northwest for some time. I grew up in Snoqualmie and went to the University of Washington before discovering the broader world when I joined the Peace Corps and went to Costa Rica. I did come home long enough to get my MBA at the UW and then work at the City of Bellevue for several years before the international bug bit again with an offer to work in Guinea. Headquartered out of Metro-Washington D.C. for the next 20 years, “home” seemed a long way away, especially as I raised my daughter in Arlington, Virginia, and rose in my profession. But I always considered the Pacific Northwest my base and have traveled to Whidbey for years visiting friends on the Island. So when one of them told me about the job opening at ISR at the same time my daughter decided to move to Seattle herself, I knew the time was right to make a change. When I received the job offer the same day I found an affordable small house five miles from the office, I knew the stars were aligning. Even my Phoenix-transplant dog, Cooper, quickly adapted to walks in the snow and rain! My dream to live and work in a rural northwest community that I can call my own was coming true.
We are celebrating ISR’s 50th Jubilee this year! As inspired as I am learning about ISR’s achievements and challenges to date, I am delighted to be leading ISR into its brightly envisioned future as we collectively emerge from the worst of the pandemic and adapt to the changing realities of our community and the people we serve. ISR’s mission remains the same to provide resources that enhance the emotional, social, and physical well-being of seniors, adults with disabilities, and those who care for them. My aim is to bring my skills, experience, and passion to the table as we seek to expand ISR’s capacity to provide even more high-quality, responsive services and increase our impact across Whidbey and Camano Islands.
I look forward to hearing from ISR’s various stakeholders over the next several months as I establish myself in the community and in service to our clients and program participants. Please feel free to reach out to me directly with any questions and concerns at or by calling the office at 360-321-1600 or 360-678-3373.
“Health is a state of complete mental, social, and physical well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” – World Health Organization, 1948