United Way of Southern Maine CEO Announces Plans to Step Down After 10 Years of Strong, Effective Leadership

After 10 years of service as CEO of United Way of Southern Maine (UWSM), Liz Cotter Schlax announced she will step down next January, upon the selection and arrival of the organization’s next CEO. The search for a new CEO is being led by a committee of the United Way Board of Directors.  

“It is the privilege and honor of my career to serve our community through United Way,” said Cotter Schlax. “I am incredibly optimistic about the organization’s future. It is governed by the strongest Board of Directors; our staff is incredibly capable and dedicated; and we partner every day with inspiring, passionate donors, volunteers and community leaders, all of whom work tirelessly to improve the lives of all people across Southern Maine.” 

Liz has provided visionary leadership for Southern Maine, resulting in remarkable outcomes through Thrive2027. This initiative involves a coordinated, collaborative effort across various community sectors, spearheaded by United Way of Southern Maine. Liz has demonstrated a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, ensuring that the organization reflects the community it serves, educates its staff, and prioritizes equity in its work. Under her guidance, UWSM has implemented an equity action plan and dashboard, conducted an equity audit, and implemented changes based on the findings. Additionally, Liz has overseen the launch of giving circles such as Brick & Beam and Women United, providing donors with hands-on engagement opportunities and establishing special purpose funds to address urgent needs, including the COVID-19 Relief Fund, Racial Equity Fund, and Housing Crisis Response Fund. Furthermore, Liz provided the staff leadership in the merger of United Way of Greater Portland and United Way of York County, creating a strong regional United Way. She also collaborated with United Ways of Maine to bring attention to the often unseen and undercounted population in Maine through the groundbreaking study ALICE in Maine: A Study of Financial Hardship. 

“Liz is leaving United Way in a strong position, and our next CEO will build on that legacy of caring and trust,” said Todd Cesca, Partner, Charter Oak Capital Management and Board Chair. “Liz believes that after ten years, this is the right time to identify our next CEO. Liz has always placed the interests of United Way above all else, and by doing so, she has set the standard for leadership at United Way of Southern Maine.”  

“We appreciate Liz for giving the board a generous notice period,” said Michael Bourque, President and CEO, MEMIC, and Board Chair Elect. “This gives us time to conduct our search for a new CEO and to accomplish a seamless transition.”  

ProSearch is leading the search for the new President and CEO. For all inquiries and interests about the President and CEO position, please contact Mary Libby, Director, Recruiting Services and Co-Owner at