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SF Pride Names New ED

by James Patterson

Bay Area Reporter

Friday January 10, 2014

San Francisco Pride officials have named a veteran street fair producer as the next executive director of one of the world's largest LGBT pride events.

George Ridgely was the unanimous choice of the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee's board of directors. Board President Gary Virginia made the announcement at the group's Tuesday, January 7 meeting, which was also Ridgely's first day on the job.

The organization is seeking to move forward from a financially successful but a managerially disastrous 2013.

Ridgely served as executive director of the Castro Street Fair from 2005-2013. Currently, Fred Lopez is that fair's interim executive director.

In brief remarks, Ridgely said he "planned to work his butt off for you [SF Pride]." He called 2014 an exciting year for the organization.

Ridgely is described in the SF Pride news release as bringing "11 years of event director and executive director experience in both for-profit and nonprofit sectors to the job [of executive director]."

Virginia cited Ridgely's positions with the Castro Street Fair and other outdoor events as "tremendous experience" for the annual Pride parade and festival.

Ridgely said he "absolutely" supported the "democracy, accountability and transparency" platform Virginia and other board members pledged to the community after SF Pride's convoluted reasoning for rescinding a grand marshal honor to Chelsea Manning last year. Manning is the Army private convicted of espionage for releasing classified U.S. documents to WikiLeaks.

Messages to Ridgely and Virginia seeking information on the new executive director's salary were not returned by press time.

Ridgely declined to criticize the previous board over its handling of the Manning controversy. Though he said he was in San Francisco all of 2013, he said he "didn't follow it [the Manning controversy] closely."

Ridgely said if SF Pride made a decision under his leadership that was unpopular with the community, he would readily listen to community concerns and possibly reconsider such a decision.

Other board members present at Tuesday's meeting were Vice President Marsha Levine, and Jose Cital, Joey Cain, Justin Taylor, John Caldera, and Jesse Oliver Sanford, via phone from Spain. Treasurer David Currie was absent. Former interim CEO Lisa Williams, who assumes her board seat at the next meeting, also attended.

Other Business

In other matters at Tuesday's meeting, Levine presented revisions to SF Pride's policies and procedures, which will include changes to the corporate participation policy. The board would not circulate or describe all the changes it would be making. Changes to the financial responsibilities policy were in response to the 2010 city controller's report, Virginia said.

The board had positive financial news in the current treasurer's report for November. The police bill for Pride 2013, $32,777, was nearly $10,000 less than expected.

For the closing three months of 2013, SF Pride had a negative net income of $82,717.

Scott Shuematte had an interesting item in his 2014 event report. San Francisco security firm Yojimbo, whose personnel barred some of the current board members from attending a board meeting last April (before they were elected to the board) when they came to voice concerns over the Manning controversy, will again this year provide main stage security. Virginia, Sanford, and others who were prevented from attending the meeting expressed no reservations for continuing to contract with Yojimbo, whose payment is "proprietary information," according to Shuematte.

Caldera objected to proposed revisions to SF Pride's qualifications and criteria for selecting grand marshals. The board proposed to limit community grand marshals to local heroes from the nine-county Bay Area region. Caldera blocked the language, insisting the community grand marshals be from San Francisco.

Virginia reminded Caldera the selection criteria "was a huge problem last year" and the revised language was an effort to clarify eligibility. The board overruled Caldera, citing time constraints as nominations will be submitted at the member meeting January 14.

Cain discussed his efforts to have the board name Manning an honorary grand marshal at this year's Pride. He said it was in the board's capacity to do so and it would help "heal fissures and the huge problems from last year." Cain, who said, "Chelsea Manning is a bigger hero this year," said there was no consensus on the honor.

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