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The United Way of the Great Salt Lake Area should become a "change agent," identifying needs in the community and then actively working to solve problems, according to a study of the agency that was presented during the annual meeting Thursday.

Community members also heard the annual financial report and paid tribute to Charles Johnson. Johnson, president of the agency for the past 16 years, is leaving July 1 to accept a post in Pennsylvania.The "Strategic Management Proj-ect" panel gathered information from individuals in the community to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the United Way. They then used the information to set goals, according to Patricia A. Richards, who will be the board chairwoman for 1991-92 and who was in charge of the project. The panel's report was then studied and discussed during a board member and staff retreat in May.

Among the strengths are the dedicated volunteers and staff, the workplace campaign - which raised a record amount this year - the agency's low operating costs and its image in the community.

But the study said the allocation process may be too complicated. It also said the agency is too reactive and that it "underutilizes" talent.

According to Richards, the United Way needs to address five main issues in upcoming years:

- It must develop new markets and a more effective campaign to increase its fund-raising capability.

- The allocation process must be able to assess the community's needs, identify changes that should be made and then build responsiveness and accountability into the process.

- United Way has a role to assume in coordinating human services delivery.

- Community support must be enhanced. Suggestions include listening to the public, providing information and having year-round, rather than just campaign-time, communication.

- Finally, board members must know from the outset what is expected of each of them, and training should be enhanced.

Johnson, during his farewell, said the decision to leave Utah was easy because he is going to a small United Way with critical problems, and "I always like to be a problem-solver." The Salt Lake United Way, he said, has a "vision" that needs nurturing, but the components are in place and the staff, volunteers and donors are "the best in any community.

"There will be no cardiac arrest or even missed heartbeat with my leaving," Johnson said. "I leave with a real sense of satisfaction and accomplishment."

Floyd Petersen, who is retiring as 1990 chief volunteer officer and board chairman, also honored five retiring board members: Andrew L. Gallegos, Impact Inc.; Raymond A. Haackel, University of Utah; Kenneth O. Hill, Ballet West; John Serfustini, Utah Power and Light Company; Karen Shepherd, U. of U. College of Business and Judge William Thorne, Third Circuit Court.

Board officers for 1991-92 will include Richards, from First Security Bank; Clyde M. Heiner, Questar Corp., as resource development chairman; Scott Pickett, Coopers and Lybrand, as resource utilization chairman; Lee Wheelock, Evans Communication, communication/marketing chairman; Maun R. Alston, Family Support, agency relations chair; Harry A. Haycock, Utah Power and Light, administration chairman; James K. Loebbecke, U. of U. College of Business, finance chairman; and Phyllis C. Safman, U. of U. Division of Continuing Education, research chairman.

Nominees for board members to serve until 1994 include Alston; Duane Carling, Lowell Bennion Community Service Center; Anne Nelsen, Youth Corrections; Petersen, Deloitte and Touche; Pickett, Richards and Dee Rowland, Roman Catholic Church.