WINCHESTER — Debera Taylor starts Monday as the new CEO of NW Works Inc. in Winchester.

“I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to be there and get started,” Taylor said Friday morning.

NW Works was founded in 1970 to provide paid and unpaid vocational training and jobs for physically and mentally disabled adults in the Winchester area. Its clients work at the organization’s assembling facility at 3085 Shawnee Drive or at various businesses throughout the region that have service agreements with the nonprofit.

Marshall Henson resigned as NW Works’s CEO in early March. The position was filled on an interim basis by Richard Kozlow, who stepped down from the board of directors to head up operations. Now that Taylor has been hired, Kozlow is returning to his board seat.

Taylor spent nearly 11 years with Fortessa Tableware Solutions LLC of Ashburn, rising to the position of vice president of operations. Her resume also includes management and training roles with Mercury Paper Inc. in Strasburg and Sheetz Inc. in Altoona, Penn.

Taylor ran as a Republican last year for a Ward 4 seat on City Council, but lost to Democrat Judy McKiernan by just three votes. Her husband is Winchester Sheriff Les Taylor.

NW Works is familiar territory for Debera Taylor, who served on its board of directors for more than five years. She was also involved with Fortessa’s decision to contract with NW Works so the nonprofit’s clients could help prepare the company’s tableware and flatware products for shipping and distribution.

As a board member, Taylor helped with the startup of Firefly Cafe and Bakery, a dining and catering business at 3035 Valley Ave. in Winchester that is operated by NW Works and provides job training for the organization’s clients.

The nonprofit also has contracts to assist with the production, packaging and shipping needs of local manufacturers including H.P. Hood, Rubbermaid, American Woodmark, Trex and more.

Taylor said she has seen the clients who get jobs through NW Works blossom into proud and happy people with a sense of accomplishment.

“It provides them a safe place where they can come to work every day, be productive, feel good about what they’re doing, earn a paycheck and contribute to the local business community by providing a service,” she said. “It’s impactful for me to help find people with challenges and give them employment and a sense of self-worth through whatever opportunity we can offer.”

Taylor hopes to provide services to even more local businesses while expanding the jobs currently offered to NW Works’s existing partners.

“If we grow the base, we’ll be able to support more folks that have employment challenges,” she said.

Taylor also wants to become more involved in the local nonprofit community and build up NW Works’s coffers so “we’re here for another 50 years.”

Kozlow has agreed to work with her for 30 days to help orient her to the position before he returns to the board of directors.

“He has done a fabulous job, but he wasn’t looking for a permanent stay [as CEO],” Taylor said. “Having someone on the board that understands the day-to-day operations will be beneficial because he’ll be that go-to person I can ask questions and bounce ideas off.”

Taylor said she had mixed feelings about leaving Fortessa and the coworkers she had bonded with over the past decade, but the opportunity to take the helm of NW Works was one she couldn’t pass up.

“It’s been an emotional couple of weeks,” she said. “It’s been a little bit tough.”

— Contact Brian Brehm at bbrehm@winchesterstar.com

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