Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn announced today that Jim Vella, president of Ford Motor Co. Fund, will retire on Dec. 31 after a career of more than 31 years with the company. Mary Culler, chief of staff for the office of the executive chairman at Ford and development director for the company’s revitalization of the campus anchored by Michigan Central Station in Detroit’s Corktown, will take his place.
Vella joined Ford as a news producer in 1988 and rose through a variety of executive leadership positions, including vice president of corporate public affairs and chief of staff for executive chairman Bill Ford. He has been president of the Ford Fund, Ford’s philanthropic arm, since 2006, overseeing the growth of programs such as Ford Driving Skills for Life and a global expansion of charitable activities across more than 60 countries.
“Whether it was a plant crisis or internal issue, Jim has been a trusted partner and advisor through an extraordinary era at Ford,” says Ford. “His devotion to helping others and commitment to expanding Ford’s role in the community have made us a leader in corporate philanthropy around the world.”
Culler will take over on Jan. 1, 2020 and will add the responsibility of president of Ford Fund to her current positions.
Reporting to Ford, Culler is responsible for advancing strategic priorities and shaping internal and external engagement for the office of the executive chairman in areas such as sustainability, smart mobility, autonomous driving, and corporate citizenship.
Culler previously was director of Ford U.S. State and Local Government Relations, when she managed Ford’s engagement with policymakers nationwide on automotive and community issues. Her team also negotiated investment and job creation incentives in Ford plant states.
She also managed Ford’s North Central Region’s Government Relations Office in Chicago, where she spearheaded the company’s Operation Better World community and dealer relations efforts. She also led Ford’s Global Public Policy office in Dearborn, managing the development of company policies and positions.
Prior to joining Ford in 1999, Culler worked for Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley as manager of the city’s Industrial Development Program, working with businesses on economic development and job creation initiatives.
Culler also has held positions at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C., including deputy director of the National Brownfields program, where she launched the national program to remove regulatory barriers regarding the cleanup of abandoned industrial properties. She also worked in the U.S. Senate on energy and natural resource issues for the chair of the Energy and Natural Resource Committee.
After completing her bachelor’s degree at Indiana University, Culler earned her master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University. She was featured in the 2019 class of DBusiness’ Powered by Women.
Ford Fund was launched in 1949 and works with dealers and nonprofit partners. It has invested more than $2 billion in programs that support education, promote safe driving, and enrich community life. The fund also includes the Ford Volunteer Corps, which Bill Ford launched in 2005 to encourage employee participation in community service.