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January 15, 2010


Zaller to run center during search for new director

Cleveland--The new year saw the departure of the Cleveland LGBT Center’s executive director Sue Doerfer, but the ship is far from rudderless.

The board of directors named Mary Zaller, the director of sponsorships and major donors, as interim executive director while it completes its search for Doerfer’s permanent successor.

In doing so, they selected perhaps the one person at the center with the longest institutional memory.

Zaller celebrates her seventh anniversary at the center on January 31. She was hired as director of development during the nine-month stewardship of former executive director David Smith.

When Smith stepped down due to health concerns, Zaller and Jack Hart, then director of programming, became interim co-directors.

Those were stressful times at the center. After having engaged in an exhaustive national search for the replacement for former director Linda Malicki, the board found itself in the unenviable position of having to go through the entire process again, less than a year later.

This time, however, Zaller believes they are in a better position to find someone to fill the post on a permanent basis.

In addition to Zaller’s intimate knowledge of the non-profit organization’s workings, she also points out that they have a couple other major advantages this time around.

She pointed to board member Mark Fiala, a straight ally who is the president of a human resources consulting firm. A director search is firmly within his realm of expertise.

“He put together a job description, and knows the process and timelines to do an executive director search correctly,” she noted.

They also have feedback from Doerfer on her own experiences being vetted for her new position as executive director of Equality Ohio.

“Sue went through a thorough but concise two-month process for the Equality Ohio job, so we now have the benefit of her having just gone through that process and relaying it to our search committee,” Zaller noted.

With their feet more firmly on the ground than when Smith departed, the board is now focused on a quick, efficient search.

The most important thing, though, it that while the search is underway, ithe center has an experienced hand guiding it.

“The staff and board know me and feel comfortable with me and vice versa,” Zaller said, “and the community will feel comfortable knowing I’m there.”

She is sure that whoever takes the reins from her will guide the center ably through its next years.

“Whatever experience and connections the new executive director has, he or she can take the center in that direction,” she noted. “Sue had experience with social services, so the center moved more in that direction.”

Given her institutional memory, Zaller’s selection as the interim head of the center gives the board the “breathing room to select the right person to move the center forward,” she said.

Zaller has not put her name in as a possibility for the permanent position. She feels that she can serve the center most ably by using her expertise with sponsors and major donors to help, rather than by leading the organization, although her experiences following Smith’s departure ensure a continuity in the center’s leadership.

“The LGBT Center in Cleveland is so many different things to so many different people,” she mused. “We’ve been around for 35 years, and so many people have varying expectations of the center. I don’t think people realize how big a job it is.”




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