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August 13, 2010

Earl Pike leaves AIDS Taskforce

Jones steps into interim role; Pike continues to assist

Cleveland--An era ended on August 4, when Earl Pike stepped down as the executive director of the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland.

Filling his shoes for the foreseeable future will be his second-in-command, Tracy Jones.

The announcement of Pike�s resignation was a surprise to many in the HIV/AIDS and LGBT communities in Cleveland. Pike led the Taskforce for 13 years, making him the second longest-lasting AIDS service organization head in Ohio, after the AIDS Resource Center Ohio�s Bill Hardy, who has shepherded his organization for 18 years.

�Other than Bill Hardy, I was the oldest surviving ED in the state,� he noted.

Pike�s resignation stems from some medical issues in his immediate family, which he preferred not to discuss. However, the last four months have been stressful for his family, and he is looking forward to spending more time with them than he has in over a decade.

�As I told somebody the other day, I�ve always known when it was time to go, I wouldn�t spend a lot of time anguishing over it and processing it, I would just know,� he said.

His departure from the corner office at the AIDS Taskforce, however, will not mean his absence from HIV advocacy in Cleveland. On August 10, he moderated a forum on changes in Ohio�s AIDS Drug Assistance Program, cutbacks necessitated by the rocky economy over the last couple of years.

�I can stay involved without the day to day responsibility of running the AIDS Taskforce,� he stated.

�For two days last week,� I dug around in the backyard with my kids and made wacky sculptures out of old TV sets and ladders that we found in the attic,� he recalled. �It was the most fun I�ve had in a long time.�

Pike first became involved in AIDS activism in the early years of the crisis, and it�s been a 25-year crusade for him.

�It�s amazing to me how much I enjoyed those couple of days last week, but it�s also amazing to me how I didn�t hesitate when the Taskforce called and asked if I could run the meeting,� he continued. �There are obviously ways I can still get engaged, and ways that I need to separate.�

�It�s been 25 years. The intensity of that is huge,� he noted. �I�m not being maudlin when I say there�s a big part of my body saying, just take some time and rest.�

Devoting more of his time to his family is a pastime he can embrace whole-heartedly. On August 16, he will celebrate the first anniversary of quitting smoking, a step he took because his daughter asked him to.

And while his family needs him more now, he knows that his other family is in strong and capable hands.

�There are amazing people attached to the agency at every level,� he said. �The AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland is in very competent hands.�

Tracy Jones has been with the Taskforce since 1999, first coming in as director of education before ascending to associate executive director the following year. She has spent the last decade as Pike�s strong right hand, and no one other than he has as much knowledge about the workings of the agency.

What she has not done, however, is take center stage before now, often preferring to work behind the scenes and playfully scolding reporters for taking her picture. By necessity, that will now change for her.

�I�m really interested in stepping into the forefront,� she said. �My role here at the Taskforce has been one where I was mostly behind the scenes.�

�The Taskforce is here and it�s viable and it continues to do important work,� she said, noting that statewide funding cuts will not deter the agency from helping as many people as it can, as much as it can.

Jones said that the board is in the process of taking the Taskforce into the future.

�The board is putting together a transition team, and they�re going to use that team to begin and complete a search for the permanent leadership position or positions, and that team will be comprised of board and community leaders,� she noted.

Jones would not say whether she would throw her hat in the ring for the permanent E.D. position.

�I think at this point it�s too early to answer that question,� she said. �My interest is in doing the best that I can as the interim E.D.���������������� |









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