No longer interim, Rothan takes Stonewall helm
Columbus--Stonewall Columbus will have a new executive director on March 19, although she will have a familiar face.
Karla Rothan, the interim center director, was offered the position of executive director in the middle of the first week of February, and she accepted within a day or two.
Her answer ended 22 months of interim leadership following the April 24 resignation of Kate Anderson.
Rothan was hired after Kellye Pinkleton, then interim executive director, left the organization last year to work on Jennifer Brunner’s successful campaign for Ohio secretary of state.
That was not Rothan’s first experience with the organization, however. She has volunteered with Stonewall since 1998, working on the Pride Holiday committee, chairing that committee from 2001 to 2003 and receiving the President’s Award with her partner Linda Schuler in 2003. The couple were grand marshals for the 2004 Pride Holiday parade.
Schuler is a board member at Stonewall Columbus, but stepped down from the executive committee when Rothan was first offered the position of interim center director to avoid the possibility of conflict of interest.
Rothan said when she was hired as interim center director that she was not interested in a permanent position at Stonewall Columbus. However, stewarding the organization for six months changed her thinking.
“I wasn’t really sure of the direction of the agency and where they wanted it to go,” she said.
During her tenure in the interim position, she saw that Stonewall Columbus and the people working with the organization “had a lot of heart and a lot of energy.”
As interim center director, her job was to look at the short-term, “maintain contracts, maintain position.”
Now, however, “I’ll be able to put together a future and set goals for the organization.”
“I think it will be best for the organization,” she noted. “They haven’t had an executive director for a while. They had an interim ED, that was Kellye, they had an interim center director, that was me.”
Rothan, who is currently in Florida taking care of property owned by her and Schuler, begins the new position on March 19, and will be in the office full-time. She will begin piloting Stonewall Columbus into the future by looking to the past.
“I guess the first thing that I’m going to do personally is, I’m probably going to meet with all the past presidents of the board as far back as I can get,” she said. “I think it’s really important to learn from the mistakes of the past, so I’m probably going to have a presidents’ breakfast with just me and the past presidents.”
After that it will be time to plan for Pride. Stonewall Columbus began the new year by hiring Suzie Simpson as one of two new center coordinators, and her duties will center around Pride.
Before that, though, there will be an open house at the center, showing off their newly-remodeled multipurpose room. Coinciding with the April 7 Short North Gallery Hop, there will be a private donors’ reception, and then the public will be allowed into the space, where Rothan envisions yoga classes, drum circles and events during the monthly Gallery Hops, which bring the center to the attention not just of the LGBT community, but the greater Columbus population.
“I think we’re going to capitalize on every opportunity to meet people,” she said.
“Columbus is a world-class city, not just for LGBT citizens, but for all citizens, and I think that it deserves a community center that celebrates our culture as LGBT people,” she said, noting that Stonewall Columbus will most likely be doing more arts work, in addition to its social service and support efforts.
“We’ve already received two plays for our shorts festival, one from Massachusetts and one from New York,” she said, pointing to the goal of turning Stonewall Columbus into an “epicenter of cultural activity.” The shorts festival will kick off Pride Month in June at a South Beach party during the June 2 Gallery Hop at the center.
“I think it will be great,” she said confidently. “I definitely think that the arts are going to be a major part of our center’s revelries.”