October 27, 2022 – Executive search firm McCormack+Kristel has been enlisted by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) to find its next executive director. Heidi Marston resigned from the role in April due to disagreements with the agency’s board of commissioners over pay for lower-level staff. In September, Kristina Dixon and Molly Rysman, who served as acting co-executive directors since April, returned to their former roles with LAHSA, and Stephen David Simon, who heads the Los Angeles Department on Disability, was appointed interim executive director. Managing partner Michelle Kristel is spearheading the assignment for the search firm,
“Los Angeles City and County are experiencing the largest population of unhoused people in the nation, a problem that continues to grow as housing costs price local residents out of the market and inequities in healthcare and social services disproportionately impact low-income communities,” said McCormack+Kristel. “LAHSA cannot solve the homelessness crisis on its own. It will take concerted leadership and the collaboration of numerous public and private partners to address this challenge. The executive director will have the opportunity to set the agenda and the benchmark or best practices, making Southern California the leader and the pacesetter on this critical social issue. This is an effort of exceptional importance and profound humanitarian merit.”
The executive director is primarily responsible for leading the region’s ecosystem to end homelessness, said the search firm. The position is unique and complex: The ED is a leader on homelessness and a tireless advocate within the political and policy communities that bridge the gaps in the system. The ED serves as the spokesperson to financial partners, political entities, representatives within the county, agencies serving people experiencing homelessness, the homeless advocacy community, the media, the affordable housing community, philanthropy, and academia.
Key responsibilities of the position revolve around collaboration and organizational leadership. The executive director is appointed by and must work closely with the commission, engaging its members appropriately in key policy discussions and regularly reporting on progress toward key strategic goals and priorities, said McCormack+Kristel. These include efforts to advance LAHSA’s role as a systems administrator and the backbone of the region’s rehousing system.
This leader is also expected to continue to build a strong senior leadership team of dedicated and passionate staff committed to executing LAHSA’s mission; build, grow, and sustain a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion where racial equity is operationalized in practice and outcomes; and advance and align efforts to build efficiency and innovative best practices that support LAHSA’s monumental growth; among other duties.
The successful candidate will be a seasoned leader who understands the homeless services ecosystem and is able to articulate and advocate for LAHSA’s core values, mission and priorities to all key stakeholders and constituents, said the search firm. Ideally, he or she will be knowledgeable of complex agency systems and best practices and will understand the urgency to shelter the unhoused.
The new executive director should have 10 years of executive level fiscal and leadership oversight of a large complex organization. A track record of successful collaboration with a governing commission or board of directors is essential. Prospects will also be expected to have served in leadership of an organization that is responsive to varied stakeholders and subject to political, public and media attention.
The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority is an independent, joint powers authority established by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Los Angeles Mayor, and City Council. LAHSA’s mission is to support, create, and sustain solutions to homelessness in Los Angeles County by providing leadership, advocacy, planning, and management of program funding. LAHSA is the lead agency in the Los Angeles Continuum of Care, which is the regional planning body that coordinates housing and services for homeless families and individuals in Los Angeles County.
Veteran Search Consultants
McCormack+Kristel was started in 1993 as McCormack & Associates with the mission of recruiting senior leadership for the many research, advocacy and human services organizations growing exponentially in response to AIDS pandemic. Diversity recruiting has long been on the firm’s agenda.
With the advent of effective treatments for HIV/AIDS, and the diminishing needs of many of these organizations, the firm broadened its client base into areas like social justice; healthcare; women’s issues; higher education; gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender; civil rights; and more.
Four years ago, founding partner Joseph A. McCormack formed a new business partnership with Ms. Kristel, who joined the firm in 2013 as an associate. The firm has offices in New York City and Palm Springs, CA. McCormack+Kristel clients have included the ACLU, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, TransForm, Planned Parenthood, SAGE, and the Tides Foundation, among others.
This summer, Mr. McCormack retired. Ms. Kristen continues to run the firm’s national practice. Ms. Kristel is the former executive director of In The Life Media (ITLM), a non-profit organization producing social change media to raise awareness of issues related to gender, HIV/AIDS and LGBT rights.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media