Guest Editorials

1,566,720 minutes

by Dr. Robert Moolman, executive director of the Utah Pride Center

Today is exactly three years and 20 days since I started my remarkable, humbling, and life-changing experience as the executive director/CEO of the Utah Pride Center. Of course, if you add the seven dog years that was 2020, that makes 10 years and 20 days!

It is with a sense of great pride, and some sadness, that I write this letter, which formally announces my request to the UPC board of directors to initiate the search for the next executive director of this wonderful organization. It is a decision that has been a long time coming and I have been waiting for the right time to announce this and make this request. I believe that the time is now. I believe very strongly that it is as important for a leader to have the vision for where they want to take an organization, as it is for them to know the right time to open the door for the next person, in order for the organization to grow and develop.

As I sit here in my office considering all the remarkable achievements we, as an organization and team, have had through the past three years, I cannot help but think about the goals that I had set and hoped to achieve when starting this role.

I knew we needed to be seen as the ‘center’ of our community and that we needed to be connected not only with our LGBTQ+ community but to the broader Utah community. We needed to be a space that was visibly and vocally driving the change we wanted to see, and where we were providing best-practice resources and services.

Internally, we needed to be an organization that was financially and fiscally secure and where our process and procedures enhanced our work and our environment. We also had to be an organization that attracted and retained exceptional individuals for this work. I am proud of the knowledge that we have come far in meeting these goals.

Our Center has changed so much over the last three years. I stand in awe of the passionate and determined team of people at the UPC who are serving our community and providing our essential services and resources. I believe that we have empowered our team to be proactive in ideas, decision-making, and planning, thereby allowing them to bring new initiatives to the Center and to implement them – our Suicide Prevention program being a wonderful example of this.

I am so proud that our team here is diverse in thought, ethnicities, genders, sexualities, and perspectives. Of course, we can do better and should never rest on our laurels, and as our Center continues forward, I hope to see that diversity continue to grow and expand.

I also believe that over the last three years there has been a much-improved connection with broader community stakeholders — from our donors and supporters to our recognition within non-LGBTQ+ spaces as being a leading voice for our communities. Our team here has done a remarkable job and is to be commended for its passion and continued dedicated work – it has been a privilege to be your executive director.

I struggle to contemplate or even remember a Utah Pride Center without SAGE, the Utah Queer Historical Society, TransAction, an education and training department, our People of Color program, our Latinx task forces, and our GSA conference, yet these have emerged and grown in just three short years.

We have instituted processes and initiatives at the Center that have improved our finances, our data collection, and our grant funding potential. Our relaunched membership program, our new development work, newsletters, and our annual report / state of the center have been important in our connection to donors and funders and to our responsibility to be transparent and accountable to the communities we serve.

I also want to acknowledge the remarkable work and dedication that goes into our Pride Festival, our 2020 Road Rally, and our 2021 Pride Story Garden. These events have grown over the years and provided a financial lifeline to our organization. I know that is due to the team here and the incredible volunteers we have at the Center, who are dedicated to the success and the mission of the Center. I appreciate that there is much, much more to do on many of these fronts, but I am confident that as these changes are now part of our work and our locus of intent, we will continue to grow and develop each of these in the years ahead.

There is so much exciting work still to do, and I stand ready to keep that work moving as the board searches for the person to help guide that work in the coming years.

Vital to our continued work is better accountability and connection to our Queer BIPOC community. We need to do better and be better in this regard. I stand ready to continue the initiatives and relationships I have formed and will ensure that this work is at the forefront of the next executive director’s mind.

I am truly excited by our plans to develop an endowment fund for the Center, ensuring that our work will continue through tough times as well as good ones.

I believe there is great potential in our newly launched Rainbow Wellness program. It has the possibility of bringing new community to the Center and of growing our preventative health care work in very exciting directions.

I am passionate about the work in education, training, and schools. I know that this is just the tip of the iceberg and that as this is allowed to grow and flourish, we will become more vital in our ability to create lasting change in Utah.

I am confident that, out of the pandemic, our new ability and skills in working virtually will open new doors to meeting the needs of LGBTQ+ across all of Utah.

Most importantly, our initiatives these past three years to improve the conditions and benefits for our staff have been significant in our potential to attract and retain superb candidates and colleagues. As we continue on our road to improvement through internal and external evaluations, audits, and professional development, I see our Center growing in strength more each year.

In reflecting on my years here, I am constantly reminded of the resiliency and power of our Center. It is a space that faces the challenges of constantly evolving environments, changing donor and funder expectations, and the need to be connected to a broader and more diverse community.

Through 2020 we faced the challenges that came with the COVID-19 pandemic. We saw our funding decrease dramatically, and we saw baseless and cruel attacks on our work and team by ex-employees with personal agendas who actively strove to divide us, our donors, and our community relationships. But we persisted! There is still work to do to repair that damage, but our Center is stronger.

Our work is important, it is relevant, and the team here takes the responsibility to the community to heart. I am so incredibly proud and humbled to lead this team that rose to the occasion, and which I believe will always be accountable to our community.

As I make the request for the search to begin for the person to take what we have built to the next level, my commitment and dedication to the board and the team of people we have at the Center continues. We will accomplish much in these coming months as we all stay focused on our mission.

I will remain as long as the Center needs me and as long as it takes to ensure a smooth transition, maintaining the continued essential work of the Center.

I have brought powerful change to the Center, and I know that the Center, its people, and our community have changed me for the better as well. There is so much wonderful and exciting work to do, and I continue to be so proud and fortunate to do it with the incredible team here at the Center.

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