July 22, 2021 – Following a competitive, nationwide search, Los Angeles-based Kevin Chase Executive Search Group assisted in the recruitment of Rob Wheeler as executive director and chief executive officer of the LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert.
He succeeds previous CEO Mike Thompson and interim executive director Mary Sue Allen, who will resume her role as co-chair of the board of directors. Kevin Chase, managing partner, and Catie DiFelice, senior associate, led the assignment for the search firm.
“The Center already has a national reputation of innovation and creating the connection for a healthy vibrant LGBTQ community,” said Ted Briggs, co-chair of the board. “Rob’s experience, leadership and authenticity provide our staff, board and broader community a proven partner to lead the next evolution of The Center. The board has every confidence that Rob will work with our incredible staff to further our mission and vision and brings an abundance of energy and enthusiasm to the center and to our members and clients. As we emerge from COVID-19 and gather our community together again in safe and meaningful ways, we will build on our past success with both traditional and new programming, events and services.”
Mr. Wheeler joins The Center following 22 years at the New York LGBT Community Center, where he served as deputy executive director and chief operating officer since 2010. He led the New York Center through a decade of transformational growth with an array of health, arts, and community programming, growing the annual budget of $8.5 million to $20 million. Mr. Wheeler earned his bachelor’s degree in organizational sociology and political science from Hunter College and his MPA from New York University, where he subsequently taught as an adjunct associate professor of public service.
In his new position, Mr. Wheeler will assume primary operating and oversight responsibility for the center and will be expected to work closely with the board of directors, staff and community partners to advance the organization’s work and mission. He will have ultimate responsibility for strategic, operational, administrative and financial stewardship in concert with the board and will actively engage internal and external stakeholders in creating a shared vision for the future of the organization.
“I am humbled and honored to join the incredible team of staff and board members of The Center at this pivotal time for the organization,” said Mr. Wheeler. “For over 20 years, The Center has provided a broad and diverse range of programming, while focusing on outreach, community need and equity principles in everything they do. The Center is a model for community-driven programming where the full diversity of LGBTQ people are affirmed, celebrated and supported no matter who they are or where they live. The sky’s the limit for our Center and community, and I can’t wait to contribute to our continued growth and success.”
The LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert, founded in 2001, has an annual operating budget of just under $2 million. The non-profit provides services throughout the Coachella Valley which range from a community food bank and a mental/behavioral health clinic, to physical health and wellness programs, and social engagement and events. Most recently, the group opened a new location serving LGBTQ residents in the East Valley.
Kevin Chase Executive Search Group is a national consulting and executive search firm serving mission-based, non-profit organizations in the human services, social justice, healthcare philanthropy, education, and arts and culture sectors. The firm partners with boards, search committees, senior leadership teams and stakeholder groups on critical leadership transitions.
In a career of more than two decades, Mr. Chase has led dozens of executive search and leadership transition engagements for non-profit organizations as well as companies in the finance, technology and professional services sectors. Most of his engagements are for executive director/ CEO, senior development and board positions, though he has also conducted searches for C-level leaders of finance, operations and programs. He has expertise in working with small to mid-sized, mission-driven non-profits, providing consultation and advisory services to the boards and leadership volunteers responsible for governance and organizational development.
Bringing more than five years of retained executive search experience, Ms. DiFelice’s primary focus is non-profit and higher education assignments. She has also worked in the technology, healthcare and consumer markets. Although she has helped recruit C-suite and other senior executives in many markets and sectors, she said she feels most connected to her work on behalf of mission-driven, not-for-profit organizations. Her broad non-profit search experience cuts across the healthcare, civil rights and social justice, education and arts and culture sectors.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media