Five longtime Mazzoni Center board members will be leaving their positions as the board of directors carries out a promise to diversify its membership.
Anthony Rodriguez, Sheila Peopples, Michael Wolf, Russ Harris and Kelly Harris will step down as Mazzoni board members at the end of the year. Chris Pope, the board’s president, said candidates are currently being vetted to fill those vacant spots.
“Many of our legacy board members have served for 13 years, and now it’s time to make space for new faces, new voices and new perspectives. Diversifying our board has been a major focus for some time now and we are looking for prospective candidates that will bring a fresh outlook as we move the organization forward,” Pope said.
Mazzoni Center currently has 17 board members: Five are women, six are people of color and eight are white men.
Miriam Edelstein — the board’s secretary, who has served for almost a year — is staying aboard and applauded the move toward more diversity.
“We’re really ambitious as a new board to expand the services and do it in a way that is true to the mission. The only way to do that with a volunteer board is to have diverse voices and skilled hands on deck,” she said.
Kelly Harris is one of those members who has served for 13 years and will be leaving. She echoed Pope’s response to improving the board’s diversity efforts adding “not only demographic diversity, but skillset diversity as well.”
“It’s been a rough couple of years for Mazzoni Center, but I think that things are finally settling down and the board has a good set of objectives in front of them,” Harris said. “There’s a lot of work ahead but we’re looking for prospective members who have the willingness to commit to the organization.”
Anthony Rodriguez also served 13 years on the board and has been active in the organization since the 1990s. He said he’s watched Mazzoni Center evolve and grow “into the leading LGBT health center in the city, if not in the region,” adding: “With all that growth comes growing pains and changes. It’s a process. I have no doubt that the board will be successful in moving the organization forward.”
Wolf said Mazzoni Center CEO Lydia Gonzalez-Sciarrino “has some amazing things she can do in the organization if she’s given a chance. It’s hard to work in an environment when you’re expected to fail.”
Gonzalez-Sciarrino said in a statement that the departing members were “dedicated individuals that helped shape Mazzoni Center into the amazing organization it is today.”
The prospective candidates will meet with Mazzoni Center staff next month ahead of a board vote.