News and analysis
January 29, 2016

KaBoom Looks Within for New CEO

KaBoom didn’t have to look far for its new chief executive. On February 1, James Siegal, who currently serves as president, will move into the CEO role.

Mr. Siegal has been at the nonprofit, which builds playgrounds in low-income neighborhoods, since 2012. He will succeed the organization’s founder, Darell Hammond, who announced in November that he would step down to join his wife, Kate Becker, who has a new Peace Corps assignment overseas. Mr. Hammond will continue to serve as an adviser to KaBoom.

Prior to joining the organization, Mr. Siegel served as chief of staff for the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that runs AmeriCorps. Before that he was a vice president at Independent Sector.

The promotion to CEO was the result of a deliberate succession-planning process, something Mr. Siegal says is "all too rare in the nonprofit world."

He says the possibility that he would succeed Mr. Hammond has been part of the conversation since he joined KaBoom. More recently, it became a factor in how Mr. Siegal spent his time. He says it was important for him to not only lead the organization internally but also to serve as a visible leader with outside partners, such as the corporations that support KaBoom, government agencies, and other nonprofits.

Policy and Tire Swings

KaBoom will continue to build play spaces in low-income neighborhoods, but it will also ramp up its efforts to urge local leaders to take steps to create equitable, kid-friendly cities, says Mr. Siegal.

"The conversations about improving cities all too often ignore the needs of kids and families," he says.

Mr. Siegal says that one of his favorite things about KaBoom is its distinctive culture. He says it’s a place where employees take their work very seriously without taking themselves too seriously.

"The second you walk into our office, you can tell that something’s different," he says. "There’s a tire swing in the lobby."

The playful environment has made it easy for him to get his family involved. His three daughters have come with him to help build playgrounds.

Says Mr. Siegal: "It’s the first time in my life where my kids actually understand what I do for a living."

Send an email to Nicole Wallace.