Las Vegas Sun

October 21, 2019

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New executive director ‘inspired’ to lead Gay and Lesbian Community Center

Waldron

John Waldron

The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada this week announced the appointment of John Waldron as its new executive director.

Waldron, the former manager of learning and development at Boyd Gaming, will enter his new role Jan. 22. The appointment comes as part of an “extensive search,” said Joe Oddo Jr., who assumed his role as the president of the center’s board of directors in December.

“It’s more important than ever that we’re actively involved in the community and building strong relationships,” Waldron said. “Even though we’ve made remarkable strides over the years, the current administration is weighing down on us and trying to reverse much of the progress that we’ve made. That’s the role [of the executive director] — to build strong relationships within the community and to really be an advocate for all of the programs that we have going on.”

In the six years that the center has operated out of the Robert L. Forbuss building on Maryland Parkway, it has had five executive directors. Waldron says one of the most frequent questions he received during the hiring process was, “Are you committed?”

“I made the commitment to them that I wasn’t going to be just the next person in the round of revolving executive directors,” Waldron, 54, said. “That I was inspired by what they do.”

“I’ve been out for 30 years now and very comfortable with who I was, but I was never out front in the community,” he continued. “To have this opportunity now at this stage in my life and in my career — to dive into a mission that is so personal to me — means everything to me.”

Waldron is an adjunct professor at the College of Southern Nevada and runs his own leadership development and consulting business. Prior to his role at Boyd Gaming, he was the director of organizational development at Opportunity Village. “I’m very excited to be part of the organization,” he said of the center.

Waldron said the center is “building momentum and reaching out to our corporate partners,” to build relationships and solidify funds for the year. He also plans to use his background in leadership to help develop emerging LGBTQ leaders in Las Vegas.

Oddo said that volunteer hours “skyrocketed” last year. The center also launched a bi-monthly free trans name-change workshop and introduced the Center Advocacy Network, a program that provides people with victim advocacy training so they can help survivors of domestic violence move through crises.

But the nonprofit has also faced a handful of challenges in recent years. In June 2017, it cut operating hours and staff salaries to offset funding issues. Four months later, Bronze Cafe vacated the restaurant space located in the front of the building. Last July, the Little Rainbow Cafe opened and then quietly shuttered.

Former executive director André Wade, who took over in March 2017, resigned last August, and in September, the organization terminated its employment with Blue Montana, the center’s former transgender program manager.

Oddo said that the center was in the “final stages” of filling the transgender program director position. He also emphasized the need for community support and recurring monthly donors.

“The amount we’re asking people to donate is not an exorbitant amount of money,” he said, requesting that supporters of the center make a monthly contribution of $5 to $20, or the equivalent of a Netflix subscription. “If you all signed up for $10 a month, that funds two months of our youth program,” Oddo said.

The executive director announcement is the most significant in a number of new leadership appointments, which were also announced last week.

Brian Hosier, project manager of Penn National, will serve as the board’s vice president; Scott Ramer, general manager of Findlay Honda Henderson, is the board’s new treasurer; and Garrett Pattiani, co-founder and publisher of QLife Media, is the board’s new secretary. Donya Monroe, who served as the interim executive director and was previously treasurer, will return to the board as a member.