Like Cher and Cockroaches, we assumed FRED SWANSON would be around forever as the executive director of Gay City, the Seattle non-profit that has worn more hats than a Vegas showgirl. Over the years, Gay City has served as a gay health clinic, originally mostly for gay men but eventually expanding over the years and focused on sexual health issues including HIV/AIDS and STDs but on counseling and treatment for addiction issues.
Gay City has also been a purely social organization producing many events for the community over the years including Gay City 101 and lots of fun parties, though they’ve backed away from that in recent years while also producing theater shows and events at the Calamus Theater space at their former home on Pike Street. And, after the demise of the last version of the Seattle LGBT Center in 2009, Gay City took over many of their functions including the library and resource and referral programs.
Fred Swanson has been there through all of that over the last 20 some years but he’s ready for a change. Gay City’s Board of Directors announced yesterday that Swanson will step down from his duties as Executive Director on June 1, 2022. Bekah Telew, Gay City’s Director of Development, will serve as Interim Co-Executive Director during the transition as the search begins for a new E.D.
What Fred had to say in the press release:
Under Fred’s leadership, Gay City’s programming and impact expanded significantly. This growth included assuming the programs of the Seattle Gay Clinic in 2004, continuing critical parts of Verbena’s work in 2008, and assuming the programs of the Seattle LGBT Community Center in 2009. Gay City created new office spaces to accommodate for the additional service offerings, launched Gay City Arts, created a Youth Advisory Council, implemented core equity trainings for staff, and offered a home to queer organizations Ingersoll Gender Center, Equal Rights Washington, and Three Dollar Bill Cinema.
“Gay City has benefitted tremendously from Fred’s leadership over his two decades as Executive Director,” said Ronn Arii, Gay City’s Board Co-Chair. “He has steered this organization through challenges, great successes, unprecedented growth, and has cemented Gay City’s position as a vital and integral part of the LGBTQ community in Seattle and beyond. He leaves us in a solid position to move forward with the evolution of Gay City: Seattle’s LGBTQ Center.”
With the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the news that the building Gay City has called home since 2006 had been sold, Fred worked with the Board of Directors to find a new home for Gay City. A space and location that are responsive to the changing needs of LGBTQ people in Seattle and focuses on community members furthest from health equity.
Gay City’s Board of Directors and staff leadership will be working through a 90-day transition plan and have formed a Leadership Model Task Force. The Task Force will collaboratively explore the next iteration of Gay City’s leadership. Internal and external stakeholders will be consulted and the Task Force will solicit information from other nonprofit organizations that have implemented new and non-traditional leadership models.
“Building a new leadership model aligns perfectly with our organization’s goals to always innovate, remain resilient, and respond to our community’s needs,” said Arii. “Our history of innovation coupled with our stable financial position and move to a new space present the right timing for a thoughtful exploration of a new and progressive leadership model.”
The 90-day transition plan and the work of the Task Force will culminate with an announcement of the organization’s new leadership model, and Gay City will begin implementing next steps to bring this new model to fruition.
So, a fond farewell to Mr. Swanson and best wishes on his future endeavors and a hearty salud for his 20+ years of service to Seattle’s LGBTQ community.
For more information, visit gaycity.org and @GayCity on Instagram and Facebook and @GayCitySeattle on Twitter.