Richard Heyl de Ortiz Joins The Community Center Team as Executive Director

November 28, 2023

Community input vital to the Board of Directors’ search process and candidate decision

The Board of Directors is excited to announce that Richard Heyl de Ortiz (he/his/him) will join The Community Center team as our new Executive Director in early December.

Richard brings with him a career spanning more than 30 years in the not-for-profit world devoted to promoting equity and inclusion, and to understanding and supporting social justice. He has the right combination of past experiences, needed skills, and essential values to help move The Community Center forward at a crucial time in its history.

As Board of Directors President Willie Morris shares, “While we were fortunate to meet a number of highly qualified individuals during our search process, Richard was a standout: his personal connection to the Hudson Valley, past experiences in building and running an LGBTQ+ center, current service with C.A.S.A supporting youth/families engaged in the foster care system, and deep work around of issues central to our community – including supporting and incorporating diverse communities and perspectives and working to overcome bias based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and socio-economic status – were key factors in our decision to bring Richard onboard. I’m glad to have him and look forward to rebuilding and redefine the service of The Community Center. With Richard, in 2024, it’s my goal to work with him to see The Community Center develop an approach to better supporting traditionally underserviced portions of the LGBTQ+ community, continue to diversify board representation from communities traditionally underrepresented on the board, support the hiring of diverse staff, and develop cross-county community partnerships.”

The Search Process

From the beginning, we knew community input was vitally important to our search for a new leader. As you may recall, in the late Spring, we launched a community-wide survey asking for your guidance on those experiences, qualities, and values that were most important for our new leader to have. The findings from the survey were summarized and shared with the community in a summary report during July.

The survey’s key findings informed the creation of a new position description for the Executive Director role. That job description and posting, as well as recruitment activities and timing, were shared with the public. Multiple rounds of interviews, culled from a large number of initial applicants, netted two finalist candidates, and these individuals spoke with a diverse group of local community members in mid-October. Feedback from the event was robust and meaningful, and it was a contributing factor to the Board’s ultimate decision-making.

Executive Director Search Timeline

May 26th – June 26th: Community Survey made available online, in-person, and by mail

July 31st: Survey results shared with the community

August 8th: Job description & posting shared with the community

August: Initial resume screening and 1st round of interviews with the Board

September: 2nd round of interviews with Board & Staff

October 14th: Informal Q&A session with two final candidates and community stakeholders

Community Input and Imperatives

During our entire process, community input has remained consistent. While survey respondents understood the necessity of professional skills like strategic planning, fundraising, and team management, they were clear that “community outreach” and “advocacy and education” mattered more and needed increased priority in the Board’s considerations. When it came to core values and attributes, “effective communication,” “integrity,” and “accountability” were rated as “very important” most often, as were “emotional intelligence” and “conflict resolution.”

Survey respondents supplied over 100 verbatim comments reinforcing the need for these or closely related traits in our new Executive Director. A couple of example comments follow:

  • “The Executive Director should lead by listening to the needs of the community and innovatively collaborating with staff and community members to serve The Community Center’s mission and the community’s needs. How might The Community Center truly become a center, a haven, and beacon?”
  • “Empathy is so vital because it enables us to understand, connect with, and support others. It promotes compassion, resolves conflicts, fosters inclusivity, enhances emotional well-being, and drives positive societal change.”

At the October event, participants’ written feedback about Richard strongly echoed these attributes:

  • “Richard’s professional and lived experience…would be a major asset. He demonstrates a nuanced understanding of his relative privilege as well as the intersectionality of oppressions, and has voiced a deep commitment to bringing marginalized voices to the forefront. This candidate’s vision for The Community Center as a community leader is exciting.” – Community member, Oct 2023
  • “[Richard] was very inspiring and I felt hopeful in listening to him that he has the hard and soft skills, the lived experience, and the humanity, to do this job and do it well…Richard strikes me as special, experienced, empathetic, and skilled…The Community Center will be in good hands with him.” – Community member, October 2023

The participants, Board, and Center staff recognized that Richard’s strengths align well with the stated needs and imperatives from the community survey.

Professional headshot of Richard Heyl de OrtizAbout Richard Heyl de Ortiz

Richard is a native of New Paltz and, after time away for college and early career opportunities, he returned and has lived in the Hudson Valley for the past 24 years; he knows how special our area is and understands the dynamics of local communities quite well.

Richard currently serves as President of the Elting Memorial Library in New Paltz and is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Child Welfare League of America in Washington, D.C.

Richard began his professional career in the not-for-profit world and with a commitment to social justice in positions at GMHC and the New York City LGBT Center – both during the throes of the AIDS crisis. After a stint as a director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, Richard was the Founding Executive Director of the William Way LGBT Community Center in Philadelphia: he led the development and execution of its first strategic plan, created and implemented new programs, and oversaw the renovation of The Community Center’s 26,000 square foot building in center city Philadelphia. Since that time, most of Richard’s work has focused on child welfare – including a series of senior positions, court-appointed and otherwise, advocating for children across New York State and Ulster County.

As Richard shared with us, “My commitment to racial, ethnic, and social equity stems from lived experience in the child welfare system, my queer identity, and my life as a transracial adoptive parent. And nothing challenges and excites me more than opportunities to support advocacy, build community, and resolve complex issues: I believe I can be successful in all of these areas at the LGBTQ+ Community Center.”

Please refer to The Community Center’s website for a more detailed look at Richard’s profile, experiences, and qualifications to lead The Community Center for all.

Moving Forward

First, the Board gives profound thanks to Shanna Nigro-Gonzalez, who stepped away from the Board of Directors and stepped in to serve as The Community Center’s Interim Executive Director beginning in March of this year. Shanna has worked tirelessly to help support changing Center resources, keep key financial and operational activity moving forward, handle needed building improvements, and explore and begin implementation of a number of initiatives aimed at improving and expanding The Community Centers reach across the Hudson Valley counties we serve. The Board, staff, and community members are very grateful for her contributions to The Community Center and our community.

Next, Richard’s official first day at The Community Center will be Wednesday, December 6. The Executive Director role is a complex one, with many moving parts, and Richard has lots to immerse himself in. Although we want nothing more than for Richard to be 100% accessible to the community from the get-go, we ask for some patience as he completes orientation and onboarding activities with the Board and Center staff.

We do look forward to introducing Richard to the community in person as quickly as possible. Beginning in December, Richard will be onsite at The Community Center on a regular basis, and he will soon be a very visible presence there and in our community. Details on some specific near-term opportunities for meeting Richard will be forthcoming. Once firmly grounded in his role, we know Richard will welcome impromptu and informal connections at most any time.

Finally, if you have questions or wish to speak with a member of the Board about our selection process and/or other current and future developments at The Community Center, please contact us at CenterBoard@lgbtqcenter.org

Thank you, and our very best wishes to everyone for an enjoyable holiday season ahead.

 

The Board of Directors
Hudson Valley LGBTQ+ Community Center

Learn more here: Meet Our New Executive Director