About a month before its 20th anniversary, the Gay &Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada today will name Bob Elkins its new CEO.
Raymond Wilmer, board president for The Center, said Elkins’ background — a career in business and technology along with firsthand experience volunteering in the gay and lesbian community — is what the organization needs to move forward.
“The Center is operating at a different level,” Wilmer said. “We wanted the new leader to reflect that.”
After nine years as the executive director, Candice Nichols stepped down in April to become the senior director of programs and community partnerships for The Center.
“She was an amazing community leader, which is why she is still here,” Wilmer said.
But the new role the board envisioned — changing the title from executive director to CEO — combines leadership with a desired business background, he said.
“We wanted to put ‘superhero’ down (in the job description), but we couldn’t,” Wilmer said. “That might sound like a joke, but it’s what we needed. We wanted someone who had an extensive background leading a larger staff, working with human resources and dealing with operational procedures, yet is still able to relate to our clients.”
The Center’s board began a nationwide search in May. From 60 applicants, the board selected three candidates and then voted for Elkins on Aug. 20.
“I am proud to say it was a unanimous decision,” Wilmer said. “His background had proven leadership skills; plus he has had 30 years volunteering in the HIV community. “
Born and raised in Maryland, Elkins, 55, received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia in East Asian Studies and an MBA from New York University. He worked in banking in Hong Kong for three years before returning to New York in the ’80s.
“That’s when the AIDS epidemic rained down on our community,” Elkins said. “I had many friends who died over three years. When I tested positive (for HIV), I decided I needed to do something or my friends and community would be decimated by this.”
He began volunteering as a community organizer in New York before moving to San Francisco to be development director for Project Inform, which provides advocacy and research for HIV treatment.
In 1992 he returned to the business world in Los Angeles, working in sales, marketing and development for Packard Bell, PC Mall Inc., and other companies. He joined AT&T Interactive as the director of business development in 2008.
“But I kept involved with the Gay and Lesbian Center of Greater Long Beach,” he said. “I did some public speaking and fundraising for AIDS services organizations.”
In May, Elkins’ partner was offered a job with Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas, and he saw The Center’s job posting.
“It was the opportunity of a lifetime,” he said. “I want to continue to build on the ongoing programs and services to turn us into a world-class center.”
Along with engaging stakeholders and establishing a stronger community presence for the organization, Elkins wants to improve technology to make The Center more efficient.
“Some of the info technology systems (The Center) uses are really dated,” he said.
Elkins isn’t the only new addition to the organization, which opened in 1993 to support the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and queer community.
It moved into a permanent home in February after a $4 million capital campaign brought to life the 16,000-square-foot Robert L. Forbuss Building on Maryland Parkway near Lewis Avenue.
The facility features meeting rooms, a library, a cafe and a children’s play area. Services for the more than 36,000 clients using The Center each year include free HIV testing and flu shots.
Elkins will supervise 13 employees and an operating budget of $1.8 million.
Wilmer would not comment on the CEO’s salary. According to The Center’s 2012 tax statement, the previous executive director was paid $63,000.
Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at email@example.com or 702-387-5201.