Q&A with Zahra Roach

Executive Director

Children’s Developmental Center

Zahra Roach

Employees you oversee: 41

What is the Environmental Molecular Sciences Brief background of your organization:

Nonprofit that provides early intervention services to infants and toddlers with disabilities and developmental delays.

How did you land your current role?

A combination of things: community service, life experiences and professional background.

Giving my time and talent to local nonprofits is something that I have been actively doing for over a decade. The intrinsic reward of service is fulfilling for me. That is one of the reasons why I chose to serve on the board of the Children’s Developmental Center for five years.

Service to my community also has provided me the opportunity to create relationships with people in Tri-City nonprofits. 

My professional career began years ago in special education classrooms with kiddos who have developmental delays and disabilities for years prior coming into this role. I also taught neurotypical high schoolers English in the Pasco School District.

Add the experience of motherhood with my profession as a teacher and my love for children, and aligning myself with the mission of the Children’s Developmental Center was a perfect match.

Amid a lot of organizational change and ongoing challenges of Covid-19, the board of directors at the Children’s Developmental Center wanted a local community member that had strong relationships, a trusted reputation of being mission oriented, and someone prepared to build long-term organizational resilience.

How long have you been in it?

Approximately five months.

Why should the Tri-Cities care about your nonprofit?

Because expanding our selflessness and awareness of others’ needs makes us better human beings.

Our children with disabilities and developmental delays have the best chance of success at life when they receive intervention as early as possible. The positive outcomes in their lives can be seen in their health, academics, social emotional intelligence and eventually maybe in their profession.

When parents know where to go and what resources to tap into to improve their child’s life, their hope for their child increases.

You serve on the Pasco City Council and are very active in civic life. Why is that important to you?

I’ve always felt connected to my community and wanted to become more directly involved.

When I moved back here after graduate school, I decided to act on that calling and volunteered for the Pasco Planning Commission, where I served for eight years.

I actually loved the planning commission even though many people think those meetings are basically the most boring thing ever.

I loved being a part of helping shape the direction and growth of our community.

So when people started encouraging me to run for office, it was an easy jump for me to be able to extend that sense of service one step further.

What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?


If you had a magic wand, what would you change about your industry/field?

I would make it so that insurance companies covered 100% of the costs of any services needed by anyone with developmental delays and/or disabilities.

What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?

I’m a big believer in the philosophy of servant leadership, so I would ask them to really take some time to connect with their “why” about taking on the leadership role.

Are they motivated primarily out of a desire for advancement or ambition, or are they drawn to the role out of a sense of commitment to the mission and a desire to create more leaders from within their teams?

What is the biggest challenge facing business owners/managers today?

The constant state and rate of change.

Who are your role models or mentors?

Geri Belle, my mentor when I was a student teacher in Boston was (and still is!) a huge influence on me. Matt Watkins, Pasco’s previous mayor, has been a great guide for me in the public service sphere.

How do you keep your team members motivated?

I constantly ask myself how we’re making sure every team member feels deeply connected to the mission, to the people we serve every day. If people can’t make the connection between the work they’re doing and the impact on their clients, it becomes easy for apathy or burnout to occur.

How did you decide to pursue the career that you are working in today?

My career in education started with me working with children with disabilities, and I’ve always felt deeply connected to that work.

How do you measure success in your workplace?

I measure success based first on the impacts our services have on our clients and their families. Are they making progress toward their development goals? Do their families feel supported and informed? Of course as the executive director, I’m also focused on my own team – do they have what they need to do their jobs? Are they positioned to succeed? And of course, the financial health of our organization is crucial to be able to continue the mission, so we’ve got to track the important metrics there.

What do you consider your leadership style to be?

I am a big believer in the philosophy of servant leadership, but when it comes to “style” I’m a situational leader. I don’t know that one style works for every person or situation, so I’ve learned to adapt my communications style especially to fit the environment I’m in.

How do you balance work and family life?

It can be a challenge at times with three kids, but my husband John and I have gotten into a pretty good rhythm with it. He works from home so is able to handle things in the morning and afternoons. We got a lot of practice being flexible with changing schedules during Covid!

What do you like to do when you are not at work?

Read books, work in my yard, organize for causes I believe in, relax with my husband and kids, and watch comedies on Netflix.

What’s your best time management strategy?

Get all the important stuff done before you go to bed!

Best tip to relieve stress?


What’s your most-used app?


Do you have a personal mantra, phrase or quote you like to use?

Do the job, get the job done!


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