New Palestine resident Jeff Mittman named CEO of Bosma Enterprises

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INDIANAPOLIS — The roadside bomb that struck Jeff Mittman’s vehicle in Baghdad 14 years ago robbed him of much of his sight, but he didn’t let it take his outlook.

He has earned a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees since then and has built a career in the nonprofit sector. Now, he’s adding CEO to his list of accomplishments.

Bosma Enterprises, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit organization that provides training and employment to people who are blind and visually impaired, has selected Mittman as its next leader effective Aug. 1. The New Palestine resident, who has been Bosma Enterprises’ chief operating officer for about the past six months, will be the first CEO in the organization’s history who is visually impaired.

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Mittman said a big reason he wanted to take on the position was because he wants to set an example not only for those with visual impairments, but also those who don’t, in an effort to change their perceptions. He said he’s found those with disabilities who have trouble finding employment often don’t run into difficulties because of their disabilities, but rather because of others’ misconceptions of those disabilities.

Take Mittman, for instance, who said he goes to work every day just like everybody else. The only minor differences, he continued, are his use of adaptive software on his computer and the occasional use of magnifiers to increase the size of text. His cellphone and computer can also read to him.

“You’ll find that most people with some kind of visual impairment, that’s really all they need,” he said. “…People think it’s costly, it’s time-consuming. It’s really not.”

Mittman served in the Army for 21 years, including one combat tour in Afghanistan and three in Iraq. While serving in Baghdad in July 2005, a roadside bomb struck the vehicle he was driving. Shrapnel struck him in the face and badly injured one of his arms. A month later, he woke up in Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and learned he’d never regain his vision.

“There I was, 35 years old, with a wife and two children,” Mittman said in a news release. “The only thing I had ever done was jump out of airplanes, rappel from helicopters and chase bad guys. What was I going to do now?”

In an interview earlier this week at Bosma Enterprises’s Indianapolis headquarters, Mittman recalled recognizing one simple truth.

“I realized that my injuries in no way relieved me of my responsibility as a husband and father,” he said.

Mittman knew his days of fighting were over and that his visual impairment limited the kinds of careers he’d be able to pursue. But he also arrived at another conclusion.

“I think one of the great equalizers in the world is education,” he said.

He recognized he had a chance to have a positive impact on his family and others, he continued.

“I saw an opportunity to not only set an example for my children and to teach them that you can overcome whatever obstacle’s laid in front of you, but as I was doing that I also realized I could have an effect on others as well,” Mittman said.

And so, after about 40 surgeries and years of rehabilitation, Mittman made his way back to civilian life. He earned a bachelor’s degree in resource management from Troy University along with master’s degrees in executive development for public service and business administration from Ball State University.

Mittman also has worked for the Defense Finance and Accounting Service and National Industries for the Blind.

He joined Bosma Enterprises’ board of directors in 2012 and became the organization’s COO in July 2018. In that role, he oversaw a 25 percent boost in productivity in the organization’s packaging and logistics operations, which last year brought more than 480 million exam gloves to Veterans Affairs hospitals across the country.

Multiple minor tweaks to processes as opposed to one large change led to that increase in productivity, Mittman said.

“When you make a lot of small changes to a process, whether that’s scheduling or changeover procedures, they all start to add up,” he said.

Ideas for those tweaks came from spending time with Bosma Enterprises employees and listening to their input, Mittman continued.

Mittman will replace current Bosma Enterprises CEO Lou Moneymaker, who announced his retirement last year.

“As the organization’s first CEO who is blind, Mittman brings a unique perspective to the nonprofit’s mission of helping people come to terms with the effects of vision loss and lead independent, productive lives,” a news release from Bosma Enterprises states.

In his new role, Mittman plans to build on past successes and diversify business and employment opportunities.

Bosma Enterprises currently does a lot of work with the federal government, Mittman said, adding he wants to branch out products and services into the organization’s new commercial and business development arms. That will create even more opportunities for those with visual impairments, who suffer a 70 percent unemployment rate across the nation, Mittman said.

Mittman said Bosma Enterprises has about 220 employees, about 115 of whom are blind or have a visual impairment. Along with gloves, the organization also makes supply-filled kits used in the medical industry.

Moneymaker is confident he’s leaving the organization in good hands.

“Jeff has demonstrated unwavering dedication to our mission and is fired up about the opportunities that lie ahead for the company to expand employment and training for people who are blind,” he said in the news release. “Jeff’s passion will be a valuable asset not only to Bosma Enterprises but to the community at large.”

Lise Pace, vice president of external affairs for Bosma Enterprises, called Mittman’s promotion “a game changer.”

“Jeff’s appointment is indicative of a paradigm shift in the way disability organizations look today and into the future, where qualified individuals with disabilities are represented in greater numbers at the very highest level,” she said in the news release.

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"The only thing I had ever done was jump out of airplanes, rappel from helicopters and chase bad guys. What was I going to do now?"

Jeff Mittman

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