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Milwaukee LGBT center selects full-time executive director

The Milwaukee LGBT Community Center’s board of directors late on Oct. 22 announced the selection of an executive director after an extensive nationwide search. Colleen Carpenter assumes the post at the nonprofit on Nov. 18.

A news release said Carpenter would be the first full-time executive director at the center since 2011. She was hired to “help guide the organization as it continues to develop programs, build fiscal sustainability and cultivate relationships throughout the greater Milwaukee area.”

In a statement to the press, center co-president Paul Williams said, “Thanks to strong community support, the center has experienced a remarkable comeback, allowing us to take this next step towards our goal of making the center a national model of effectiveness and vibrancy.”

He continued, “Colleen’s extensive experience in program management, staff development, community outreach and grant-writing make her an outstanding choice for helping to achieve that goal.”

Carpenter currently is the executive director of Daystar Inc., a Milwaukee-based organization that provides long-term transitional housing for women fleeing domestic violence.

Her resume details more than 25 years of experience working for nonprofits in the areas of domestic violence prevention, housing for people living with AIDS and also youth services.

Carpenter spent the early years of her career in the Milwaukee area serving in leadership roles related to domestic violence prevention, including as president of the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

She became the executive director of the YWCA in Alton, Ill., in 1999, and led a campaign to heal an organization on the verge of bankruptcy and “beset with employee morale and public relations challenges,” according to the news release. Carpenter is credited with overseeing a turnaround that put the YWCA on solid financial footing with the development of programs and new funding sources and improved public relations.

For the past decade, she has focused on fund development work with a specialty in grant management.

In 2011, Carpenter accepted the executive director post at Daystar and returned to Milwaukee, where her three grown children and their families reside.

“Milwaukee is where I came out, and I have always considered it home,” she said in the news release. “With the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, I am thrilled to blend my passion for serving the LGBT community with my lifelong career in nonprofit management, all in a location that I truly love.”

The center’s national search for an executive director was aided by Centerlink: The Community of LGBT Community Centers and funded by the Johnson Family Foundation.

Fifty-eight candidates applied for the job and were vetted by search and hiring committees.

“We were thrilled by the caliber of candidates who applied for this position,” stated center co-president Anne Perry Curley. “Given the center’s current opportunities and challenges, Colleen’s range of skills and experiences stood out as an extraordinarily good fit. The center’s board of directors unanimously endorsed her hire.”

Carpenter will take over from interim executive director Karen Gotzler, who since February 2012 has volunteered her time and the services of her company, Urban Strategies/Sector Management.

Gotzler will continue to serve as the center’s volunteer interim executive director until Carpenter joins the staff on Nov. 18 and will remain actively involved during a transition period.

Gotzler also has agreed to join the center’s board of directors when her staff role ends.

A reception to welcome Carpenter is scheduled for Dec. 5 at the center.