Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Cleveland NAACP Hires New Executive Director

With close to full attendance at its first meeting of the year, the newly-installed Executive Committee of the Cleveland NAACP approved the hiring of a new executive director, agreed to become a collaborative partner with the Freedom Schools project sponsored by Cuyahoga Community College, and emphasized the importance of speaking with an institutional voice through its president or executive director.

Sheila Wright
NAACP executive director
Sheila Wright, who has spent the last two years as judicial clerk to Judge Ray Pianka of Cleveland Housing Court, was approved last night to serve as executive director of the Cleveland NAACP. The position had been vacant for nearly eighteen months following the resignation of Stanley Miller in July 2011. The branch’s secretary, Arlene Anderson, had filled in on a part-time voluntary basis.

The Cleveland NAACP is one of only four or five branches — out of more than 2,000 local chapters across the country — to have a paid executive director or executive secretary. The chapter retained a local search firm, WILLSRCH & Associates, early last year to find a suitable candidate. Members of the committee, speaking on terms of anonymity, told us that the field of applicants was deep and broad, and included attorneys, a social worker, a college professor, and other highly qualified candidates.

The search committee selected Wright after a series of interviews several months ago, but Branch officials decided to let the incoming Executive Committee ratify the choice.

Wright has a daunting task ahead. Modernizing the office, raising funds, fielding discrimination complaints, getting to know the arcane procedures rules of both the local and national offices are minor compared to the job of rebuilding the local chapter. The autocratic style of former president George Forbes' near twenty year reign had contributed mightily to a withdrawal of community support that saw membership roles dip perhaps below 1,000. And Cleveland proved itself no exception to the nationwide trend that sees most members of the venerable national organization well over 50. Wright will have to reenergize the chapter, engage new generations unfamiliar with the NAACP's mission and history, and become a spokesperson on lightning rod issues. Not to mention dealing with an executive board that has several members who have held their positions almost as long as she has been alive.

But, Wright, 43, can hardly wait to get started. She was euphoric over her selection, saying that she felt this job was her calling. Her first day on the job will be today.

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