After closed-door session, Lawrence Community Shelter board votes to open national search for director

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The newly established Lawrence Community Shelter board of directors during a special meeting Wednesday night voted to open a national search for a permanent executive director.

Interim Executive Director Melanie Valdez, hired as the shelter’s director of finance and operations in September 2021, started her current position in April 2022.

The new board, created two weeks ago by votes of the Lawrence city and Douglas County commissions, had met just once prior, on Oct. 26. Wednesday’s special meeting was to discuss increasing the shelter’s capacity as part of an agreement with the City of Lawrence, and to hold an executive session “to deliberate on personnel matters related to a shelter employee.”

The board of directors includes Elizabeth Keever, Chuck Magerl and Shannon Oury, appointed by Mayor Lisa Larsen; Christina Gentry and John Krehbiel, appointed by the Douglas County Commission; and Rebekah Gaston and Charlie Bryan, who were shelter board members before the move to a shared governance model. All were present Wednesday.

Board members voted last week to name Bryan president, Oury vice president, Gaston treasurer and Gentry secretary.

Board members met behind closed doors for almost an hour before reconvening the public meeting and voting unanimously to approve Oury’s motion that “we conduct a search for an executive director; we do it expeditiously; and that we authorize the chair to develop a job description; and that we issue it as soon as possible.”

“I think one thing that would be helpful is to identify how the process will be made accessible to the public so that we can allow shelter staff, community members, guests of the shelters and other community partners to have some insight into who the applicants are and maybe have an opportunity to interact with them,” Bryan said.

“I think it’d be great to have an opportunity for there to be a public forum on (finalist) candidates,” Keever agreed.

Gaston said she would like for a shelter staff member and a shelter guest to have roles on the interview team.

The board agreed that the job will be posted for two weeks, and asked whether the search would be national, Bryan said he would do his best “to make it as available to the country as possible.”

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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