To give an example of what’s in store for Bethel New Life’s CEO Steven McCullough, Congressman Danny Davis at recent dinner party had some advice for him.

“He has some mighty large shoes to fill,” said Davis, referring to Mart Nelson, who stepped down as CEO this past year,” but he seems up to the task.”

McCullough, who was appointed last July, received his Masters in business from The University of Chicago. Prior to that , he worked for The Quaker Oats Company, and also as a consultant to a firm.

It can certainly be intimidating replacing such a highly respected individual. But McCullough, as Davis pointed out, seems up to the task, and gave such an indication during an interview with the Austin Weekly News.

AWN: What projects are you currently working on at Bethel?

McCullough: Well, we are very excited about the new Community Saving Center (located on the corner of Lake and Pulaski), which opened late last year. We feel proud about helping to spearhead that project. It currently houses several neighborhood businesses such as a child daycare center, Subway and an employment center. Soon, we look to open a Saving Center, which will offer customers the same but far cheaper services as the Currency Exchange. We will have financial counselors working with residents, looking to open accounts. It is in collaboration with Thrivent Financial

and Park National Bank, formerly the First Bank of Oak Park. There will also be financial services courses offered so customers can learn valuable tips in using their accounts.

AWN: What made you want to work with Bethel New Life?

McCullough: Well, I grew up on the West Side of Chicago and still have many friends and family that reside in the communities of Austin and Garfield Park. Right now, my wife, daughter and I live on the South Side but we are moving back to the West side soon. I have a great deal of love for this community and that motivates me to do what I can to make it better.

AWN: What do you think are the primary differences between the way you manage and the way Mary managed?

McCullough: I think we work at different paces. Mary was good at multi-tasking, so oftentimes she would be working at a frenetic pace. She’d go from meeting to meeting without seeming to catch a breath, and it worked well for her. However, I work at a much slower pace. That is how I work best. I’m of the mind that smaller consistent steps can be just as effective as longer broad steps.

AWN: What do you want to accomplish as CEO of Bethel that you feel was lacking before you arrived?

McCullough: I feel that we’ve been like an 800-pound gorilla in the way we’ve chosen to handle our relationships with other community organizations such as the Austin Chamber of Commerce and The West-Side Federation. I want us to build more relationships within the community and not look at ourselves as on an island. We all want the same goal of building this community socially and economically, allowing it to thrive.

AWN: What’s next for Bethel?

McCullough: Well, we are continuing our construction of Douglas Villa Condominiums at the intersection of Washington and Kostner. Already, 16 out of 24 units have been sold to date. We are also partnering with Keystone Baptist Church to develop 7 single-family homes, all of which are sold. The homes have solar roofs and have been purchased by residents of the community. Additionally, we are in the midst of constructing a 3-unit condominium building located near Hamlin and Maypole. This will be the first of approximately 22 structures to be built in the next few years.

AWN: How long do you feel you want to work as the CEO of Bethel?

McCullough: I’m here for the long haul – 20 years, Lord willing.