Q & A: John Waldron, The Center’s new director outlines his plans

The Center has a new director at the helm to help steer it into the future.

John Waldron has served on The Center’s board for about a year before taking over as director in January.

“John is an amazing individual who brings with him the leadership and passion needed to elevate The Center to new heights. I am confi dent that our new executive committee, together with John are the right combination of skill, talent and love for our community to blaze our path for the next 25 years,” said Joseph S. Oddo, Jr., president of The Center’s board of directors.

A native of New York, Waldron has lived in Las Vegas for more than 40 years. He spent more than two decades at the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and worked his way up to director of advertising for operations over all of Stephens Media newspapers throughout the country. He left the newspaper business to work in the nonprofi t sector when he became the director of organizational development at Opportunity Village.

He went on to fill an executive position with Boyd Gaming where he was the director of organizational development for all of the gaming company’s properties in the U.S.

A lifelong student of leadership, Waldron, earned his Ed. D. in 2017 from the St. Thomas University in Florida. He focused his studies on developing emerging leaders in the nonprofit sector.

A holistic community leader, Waldron has participated in many efforts from helping gather supplies for local elementary school children in at-risk neighborhoods to mentoring college students at UNLV.

The Spectrum caught up with him to ask a few questions.

You have a background in media and the gaming industry, with an emphasis on training and leadership. Can you tell us how that experience will help you lead The Center?
My background is in operations management more than anything. I spent 25 years in newspaper advertising operations. Developing others through training was an extracurricular activity I embraced to pursue a passion for building leaders. I transitioned to developing leaders full time after my newspaper career ended because I had a passion for seeing emerging, and seasoned leaders, cultivate greater purpose in their roles as leaders.

The strength I bring to The Center is a strong capacity to lead others and manage operations. The team at The Center is talented, committed, and excited about the future opportunities we have to serve the LGBTQ community in Southern Nevada. I plan to learn from them every day and to be a resource in helping them succeed in their goals as they serve the community. As long as I’m helping create an environment where the team can succeed, then I will succeed as the executive director.

Can you define the role The Center plays for the LGBTQ community?
The Center is a place where we welcome all members of our LGBTQ community and our allies to participate in activities and find support in strengthening our image, our self-confidence, and our role in the community.

The Center is a safe place where members of our community can fi nd support and resources in a time of crisis. It’s a place where those living with HIV can fi nd support and counseling, increasing their awareness and allowing them to take control of their lives.

It’s a place where LGBTQ individuals should fi nd opportunities to work on developing skills as champions of human rights.

The Center is also a place where our stories should be told ̵ the stories about the incredible people who make up our community, and the way people are finding affirmation, support and safety in unity with other members of the LGBTQ family.

We all know you have your work cut out for you as the new director of The Center. Can you give us your top priorities to accomplish this year?
To further the work our interim executive director, Donya Monroe, accomplished in helping set the staff up for success. Donya did an incredible job empowering the staff to more eff ectively lead their programs, and I look forward to supporting the team to further develop their capacity to lead.

From a practical standpoint, we have to strengthen the funding of programs. The work that the team does every day is changing lives in Southern Nevada. But we can’t support those programs without funding. We will work in strengthening our partnerships in the community to ensure we’re getting the stories out there about the incredible work being done at The Center and the opportunity to partner with us. We’ll build stronger relationships with corporate sponsors. And, we will work on our relationship with individual donors to ensure we are giving everyone the opportunity to be part of helping serve our community.

What do you think the greatest challenge will be in the coming year for The Center?
Our greatest challenge is also our greatest opportunity. We need to work on strengthening the unity of the LGBTQ family in Southern Nevada so that we are supporting one another for the benefit of everyone in our community. We are in a precarious point in history where so many advances have been made in human rights, and yet we are threatened by the reversal of those rights if the current administration has its way. The LGBTQ community has to be unifi ed more so than ever in helping to ensure we are working collectively to enhance the lives of all members of the LGBTQ family. Thankfully, we had great success in Nevada electing offi cials statewide who will fi ght for human rights

What opportunities do you see for The Center?
Anything we can do to expand health and wellness services for the community is a great opportunity. There’s a lot for me to learn in this area and I look forward to working with our great team to identify those opportunities to enhance services to our community.

We have valuable opportunities to grow our services in educating companies across the valley in topics related to cultural competencies and working with members of the LGBTQ community

There is great opportunity in building a stronger relationship with the transgender community in Southern Nevada. We’re excited to work with the transgender and non-gender conforming community on the development of greater services and support provided through The Center. Our community has to fi ght for the rights and protection of transgender citizens – and Dana Martin’s murder on Jan, 6 is a reminder that there is no greater urgency in the LGBTQ family.

And I see great opportunity for all of our programs growing in service to women, youth, men and seniors. The potential is unlimited to be an enhanced resource for the community.

Another group that I would like to see engaging more at The Center includes LGBTQ veterans. I think there’s great opportunity in recognizing those who served and providing support and resources

The staff have many ideas that we will explore in the coming months to see what we can do in our short and long-term planning. One staff member told me he wanted to work on support services for Latino LGBTQ in the community. It’s an idea that has great potential and we need to explore it, along with other strategies, to ensure we’re meeting as many needs as we can.

We also have a great opportunity to grow and develop our board of directors. Under the direction of our new board president, Joe Oddo, we are actively working on board development looking for diverse, infl uential members of the community qualifi ed to serve The Center. We are also building our associate board, which will be comprised of emerging leaders who will lend an advisory voice to things happening at The Center, and will work on new activities and events to engage the community.

One opportunity I’m excited about is the potential for creating a leadership development program that can be operated by The Center. We could work on very purposefully developing emerging leaders to serve our community and thrive as infl uential citizens in Southern Nevada

What is the long-range plan for The Center?
My long-range plan for The Center will develop as I begin working with the community and I learn what we as a collective voice want The Center to be.

A priority will be placed on changing the name of The Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada (which is our formal name, currently) to “The LGBTQ Community Center of Southern Nevada.” We need to ensure that inclusivity starts with our name.

I envision The Center growing to become like other thriving Centers serving their communities, like in San Diego. The Center there is known as the “anchor organization” for the LGBTQ community in the area. I would love to see The Center serving as a hub of Southern Nevada in cooperation with the other great agencies that serve our local LGBTQ family.

We’ll need to explore all services that a city our size should be providing, including housing for the alarming number of homeless among LGBTQ in Southern Nevada.

The Center will build its own diversity in leadership with greater representation by women, people of color and members of the transgender community. We will make diversity a priority in our eff orts to ensure The Center is representative of the diversity in the LGBTQ community.

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