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Progress Missouri names new executive director

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Progress Missouri has tapped their next executive director after founding member Sean Nicholson decided to leave last month.

The progressive organization announced Wednesday that Laura Swinford, a former outreach director for Progress Missouri, will leave her position as the director of communications for Secretary of State Jason Kander to take the top spot at Progress Missouri.

“I’m going to be coming from an office where we have a couple hundred people in this building, and Progress Missouri is a small group,” she said. “I’ve learned a ton here at the SOS office, just the knowledge I’ve gained how agencies work together, how the pieces on the chessboard moves.”


She says that size difference has its own advantages.

“It’s able to move a lot faster, it’s very agile,” Swinford said. “We don’t answer to a bureaucracy. We can respond to things quickly.”

Swinford says she does not want to make too many changes as she moves into the role because she loves its current mission. In fact, she believes she may have to play catch-up to the other employees of the small liberal advocacy and watchdog nonprofit.

“I feel like I just got the keys to a Mercedes, so the number one thing is to keep it running, keep the track record and build upon that,” Swinford said. “Grace [Haun], Sheela [Lal] and Kevin [Garner] have done a great job, to be honest I’m going to have to catch up to them.”

Still Swinford thinks there could be room for expansion, to cover not only the goings-on in Jefferson City, but the entire state.

“I want to broaden and extend that radius statewide and start reaching out to a lot of grassroots folks in all 114 counties,” she said.

The St. Louis native and University of Missouri graduate looked up to Nicholson and says she learned a lot from his leadership.

“Sean is one of the smartest, most dedicated people I’ve ever worked with,” she said. “I’m not intimidated because I know I have his support and the support of a lot of folks in the progressive community that want it to succeed. I know he’ll be there for advice and support.”

Nicholson called the choice a good one for the organization.

“Laura’s dedication, experience and integrity will be a great asset to Progress Missouri’s team as they continue to call out corruption and fight for progressive solutions in Jefferson City,” Nicholson said in a statement. “The future of the organization and its mission couldn’t be in better hands.”

Swinford will take over Nicholson’s position on Nov. 9.