HAAM’s CEO Reenie Collins Announces Retirement

Community leader puts herself out to pasture

“I’ve loved every second of it and now I want to be with my goats,” Reenie Collins explained to the Chronicle via phone last week.

Wait... what?

Yes, Collins, who spent the last eight years championing medical opportunities for artists as CEO of the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, purchased a small farm in Round Top with her family and will now retire. Farm living remains a long-held dream for the born-and-raised Austinite and she’s loving it – even when she’s had to wake up to corral loose horses in her nightgown.

Reenie Collins accepting one of HAAM's many Best Music Nonprofit honors at the Austin Music Industry Awards (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

Collins says she feels comfortable exiting her leadership position at the non-profit because HAAM’s in a good place currently. She’ll continue to consult for the organization and is currently working with the board in succession planning, but underscores that it needs a leader who’ll have boots on the ground in Austin every day, not someone driving in two days a week. She confirms that a search has begun for her replacement and she’s confident the processes will keep HAAM in capable hands.

The 60-year-old actually hoped to transition into retirement earlier, but the pandemic necessitated her continued work. Presently, feeling that HAAM’s positioned for continued success, she’s comfortable relinquishing the reins.

Reenie Collins in 2014 (Photo by Shelley Hiam)

Collins remembers the sentiment that, “It was the end of the world” when her predecessor, Carolyn Schwarz, left HAAM after nine years to work as a director of the Ronald McDonald House charity in 2013. That fall, when said newly-hired replacement conducted her first Chronicle interview, she stood on a background in nonprofit work and health care rather than being “music insider.” As such, on her desk sat a handwritten list of groups she planned on seeing perform live because they counted themselves group members.

In the ensuing years under Collins’ leadership, HAAM remained vital: helping local musicians navigate the complexities of the Affordable Care Act, reaching new highs in terms of fundraising, widening the scope of depth of its care, and epitomizing the community collaboration on which the nonprofit thrives. According to a press release issued today by HAAM, the organization experienced a 40% membership growth during Collins' tenure.

Collins and her team also innovated HAAM's practices and services during the COVID-19 pandemic a way that allowed them to expand services to musicians more at risk than ever.

During her time with HAAM, Collins also became a loving and beloved presence in Austin’s music community, always getting loud cheers during acceptance speeches at the Austin Music Industry Awards, where HAAM dominated in the Best Music Nonprofit category. She’s seen here with a group of HAAM workers, members, and supporters accepting Best Nonprofit Fundraising Effort honors at last fall’s mobile pandemic edition of the Austin Music Awards.

“While retiring from her position at HAAM was a tough decision for Reenie, her biggest priority has been to leave at a time when the organization was very stable,” HAAM Board Chair Heather Ladage stated in today's press release. “We are sad, but know this is best for Reenie and her family, and are extremely grateful for all she has done to protect Austin’s musicians. Without Reenie, the landscape of the Austin music scene would be dramatically different. We look forward to seeing all she does during her retirement and wish her the very best.”

Executive recruiting firm Lehman Associates of Austin will be working with HAAM to hire a new CEO for the nonprofit.

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HAAM, Reenie Collins, Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, Carolyn Schwartz

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