This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
After nearly two years of instability, the Utah Pride Center on Thursday named a former pastor and longtime gay and transgender community advocate as its new executive director.
Marian Edmonds-Allen was the unanimous choice of both the center's staff and board, chairman Kent Frogley told the Salt Lake Tribune. She takes over the executive director's post on Aug. 3.
"It was a long, careful and very deliberate search," Frogley said ahead of a Thursday afternoon news conference to introduce Edmonds-Allen to the community."We feel Marian is poised to step in and really move things forward in ways that we haven't been able to do the past couple years and build on our legacy of past leadership."
Her selection comes after a four-month national search that included nearly 100 candidates, and careful consideration of the skills and vision center's leadership believed could move the organization forward, board member Jeff Allison said.
"We wanted to find A, the right fit; B, the qualified candidate; and C, someone that also meshed well with our staff, as well as our volunteers," Allison said.
Edmonds-Allen comes to Utah Pride with a strong record as administrator, organizer and program builder and reputation as a collaborative leader who knows how to build community coalitions, Frogley said.
She joins the center after a year as the national program director for the Family Acceptance Project, a San Francisco State University-based research initiative which studies the impact of family acceptance and rejection on the well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender youth.
Previously, she was director of Ogden's OUTReach Resource Center, a drop-in center for LGBT youth, which hosted forums on LGBT issues, and worked to foster partnerships with social service agencies, universities, and community groups to provide opportunities like job training, counseling and housing for gay and transgender teens, with an emphasis on helping those who are homeless.
"I am excited," Edmonds-Allen said. "Right now the LGBT world is in some ways turned upside-down with marriage equality and with what's happened in Utah with nondiscrimination. To me that opens up a world of possibilities for people and organizations the Pride Center can work with."
Utah Pride has been without a permanent director since November 2013, when Valerie Larabee, who held the job nine years, stepped down amid allegations of financial mismanagement and staffing problems.
Since then, the center has had two interim directors, numerous staff changes and tried to work through a process of examining its programming, goals and mission to set a course for the future, Frogley said.
"It hasn't been an easy journey. There's been a lot of internal reflection trying to figure out what we want to provide for the community," he said. "We feel like we've reached a point and put resources in place that, with Marian's leadership, we can move forward very quickly."
Longtime LGBT activist Charles Lynn Frost said he wishes Edmonds-Allen well, but hopes she hasn't arrived just in time to hand out life jackets on a sinking ship.
The recent years of turmoil at the center have left some in the community feeling disenfranchised and unsure about its purpose, said Frost, who used to run Utah Pride's SAGE program for older gay and transgender Utahns.
"It needs a new vision. It hasn't communicated its vision for years, therefore it's hard to get behind the center," said Frost. "I think it's really got to grab that name, Utah Pride Center, and go out and make it work."
Frogley believes the LGBT community is energized by recent advancements in equality, but that many from youth to the aging baby boomer population continue to need support and resources. One important goal will be to ensure that those services reach Utahns in every corner of the state, Edmonds-Allen said.
"Someone in Vernal doesn't have the same resources as those in Salt Lake," she said. "So to me, it's important that we work to make [the Pride Center] a true statewide center and expand what we offer."
A married lesbian who is the mother of four, Edmonds-Allen holds a degree in business organizational management, publicity and marketing from the University of Phoenix. She also earned a master's of divinity from Eden Theological Seminary, and from 2010 to 2012 was co-pastor of Cathedral of Hope in Salt Lake City, a community outreach ministry serving homeless LGBT youth.