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|Atlanta Pride seeks new head as Health Initiative expands|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|February 03, 2012 00:00|
James Sheffield steps down as Atlanta Pride’s executive director Feb. 4 to become the Health Initiative’s new director of organizational development. His goal in the new position is to help expand the agency that is transitioning from being known as the Atlanta Lesbian Health Initiative.
Atlanta Pride organizers said they won’t rush into hiring a new executive director and will conduct a national search for the person best to lead the largest Pride festival in the Southeast.
Sheffield began volunteering as an intern for Atlanta Pride in 1999 at age 19. In 2001, he started earning an hourly wage with Atlanta Pride. He took the helm of the event after then-Executive Director Donna Narducci resigned in 2008 and was officially named executive director after the 2009 festival.
Atlanta Pride Committee board chair Glen Paul Freedman said the board had been thinking about restructuring the executive director’s job duties and now is the perfect time. This planning may take a couple months, he added.
“We’ve been talking about how can we strengthen the position,” Freedman said. “We really wanted to take the time and do the research and restructure the position to make sure a job description is in place that includes working on different areas of Pride, such as strategic planning.
“We did not want to piecemeal it and then have to change it,” Freedman said.
After a revised job description is finished, the job opening will be sent to local publications and to InterPride, an international organization that provides resources for gay Prides across the globe.
No date is set for when a new executive director will be hired, Freedman said, but it is not hurting Pride’s planning for the 2012 fest in October.
“In some ways, it’s business as usual,” he said.
Buck Cooke, longtime Atlanta Pride volunteer and former co-chair of the entertainment committee, came on board Jan. 30 as the interim manager for Pride, so there should be no “hiccup” in services, Freedman explained. Applications for the 2012 Pride festival are set to go live on the organization’s website Feb. 15.
Cooke is already starting to work on Stonewall events that are held each June and vendors and sponsors are in place, Freedman said.
“We want to have a transition in a healthy, positive way,” he said.
New volunteers are also welcome, Freedman said.
“We owe a great deal of gratitude to James Sheffield. He’s done a great job as executive director and we’re very excited with his move to the Health Initiative,” Freedman added.
Broadening the Health Initiative
Sheffield said he has worked his entire adult career with Atlanta Pride and is looking forward to a new challenge and opportunity with the Health Initiative. First on his list — make sure people understand the agency now serves the entire LGBT community.
“What we don’t want is people to still think this is the Lesbian Health Initiative,” Sheffield said.
“A major move we want to make is to back up that name of being the Health Initiative,” he said. “We want to have something outside the perimeter, and we want men and the trans community to truly feel they have a place to come.”
The Atlanta Lesbian Health Initiative became the Health Initiative in September with the mission of addressing health issues of the entire LGBT community.
Linda Ellis, executive director of the Health Initiative, said Sheffield taking on this job comes at a “very important time” in the nonprofit’s history.
“Through his work at Pride, he knows everybody. As the Health Initiative makes moves to broaden its circle, he’s the ideal person to have at the table,” Ellis said.
Physically, Sheffield won’t be moving far by taking a new job. Atlanta Pride and the Health Initiative are located in the Phillip Rush Center, so Sheffield is literally moving across the hall to a new office.
As Sheffield and Ellis worked together at the Rush Center, Ellis said ideas percolated and led to conversations about how to grow a small agency.
“And now we were suddenly having conversations about possibilities. It was energizing,” Ellis said.
Top photo: James Parker Sheffield, who has been involved with Atlanta Pride since 1999, is leaving the festival to become the Health Initiative’s director of organizational development.
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