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March 26, 2010

New center director has a familiar face

Jan Cline was associate director in the early 2000s

Cleveland--Within four months of the departure of Sue Doerfer, the Cleveland LGBT Center has found a new executive director, although he is a familiar face to those who went to the center years ago.

Jan Cline originally joined the center’s development department in the late 1990s, rising to associate director and then interim director when Linda Malicki left in 2002.

He will assume the role of executive director on March 29, although he is already “helping out and learning things.”

After he left the center in late 2002, Cline headed to Portland, Maine, where he was the executive director of Outright Maine, an LGBT youth leadership development organization. He followed that with a stint in grant writing and public relations for the Food Bank of Eastern Virginia in Norfolk before returning to Cleveland.

“Before I left, I heard people say time and again, ‘Oh, you’ll be back,’ ” he recalled. “I guess I’m a northeast Ohioan at heart, because I needed to be home.”

For the last year and a half, Cline has worked for the Gordon Square Arts District, whose offices are on the ground floor of the building that houses the center. Because of his proximity, coupled with a desire to do so, it was a simple matter for Cline to become involved with the Cleveland LGBT community again.

“As soon as I moved back, I updated my center membership, and I’ve been involved with a few community things, more as a spectator,” he said. “I know being in this role will change that.”

“Certainly my involvement so far will help me, and my previous experience working at the center gives me insight into how community centers work,” he continued.

In addition, he now brings nearly a decade of additional know-how to the position.

“I have direct executive director experience that I didn’t have [when he left], I have a deeper understanding of grants, grant management and foundational experience,” he noted. “I would say that eight years ago I would have been barely prepared, and now I feel completely prepared.”

Part of that preparation is having his priorities in order. Cline said that he will hit the ground running, “as anyone in a small non-profit has to.”

“Of course I have a priority of making sure the center stays as a viable non-profit, as Sue turned it around to,” he continued. “I’d really like to work on some strategic movement for the community. Part of the success of our center being around since 1975 is that its focus has adapted as needed while staying as a community-based center.”

The center, in other words, has responded to the needs of the community, and he believes that it would be useful to gauge what the community needs at this point.

“The past couple of years, a significant focus of the center has been youth, and more specifically, homeless youth,” he noted. “That needs to continue at some level, but also needs to be balanced so seniors are included in center programming, and working adults, and non-working adults, and twenty-somethings continue being involved.”

While being everything to everyone might not be a realistic goal for any organization, Cline believes that the center at least needs to provide something for everyone.

Part of the benefits of having worked for the Gordon Square Arts District is the addition to his already sizable knowledge of non-profits.

“That’s been a great opportunity because I’ve learned a lot about capital campaigns, and I think that might be in the center’s future as well,” he said. “I say maybe because I don’t come with my own predetermined set of ‘we must do that,’ I want the community to come together. From what I’ve been hearing from people, it might be time for the center to relocate again to better serve people as we move forward.”

Part of that moving forward will affect not only the LGBT center and community, but the city as a whole. There are just four years until the Gay Games are held in Cleveland, and it presents the perfect opportunity for the LGBT Center of Greater Cleveland to take a leadership role in molding people’s perceptions of the region.

“We have an enormous opportunity and also a challenge to put our best foot forward, both for Cleveland and our community,” Cline said. “There’s a lot of negative remaining attitudes about what Cleveland is or should be, but by the Gay Games I’d like to see us pull together and put our best foot forward for the world.”

Mary Zaller has been interim executive director since Doerfer left in January to head Equality Ohio. She has been working with Cline to help him get his sea legs.

“I'm so thrilled that our search committee and board made this choice. He's the perfect person to be the executive director,” said Zaller, the interim executive director. “He has experience from working at the center, but he also has all this experience from other organizations as well.”

 “He knows the center, he knows this community, he knows what the center means to people and he takes that seriously. He comes into this role understanding on so many different levels what it requires. This is his dream job. He really wants this job, and I think you need that to be successful,” Zaller opined.

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