Metro Weekly

Leadership changes

SMYAL announces new ED, SLDN bids farewell to co-founder

Tasha Hill was already on her way to Washington from Colorado before accepting a position as the new executive director of the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League.

”I initially planned to move here because my partner lives here,” says Hill. ”Then [I] became interested in the SMYAL job after those plans were already in the works.”

In the summer of 2006, Hill, who turns 35 on Friday, wrapped up her six-year-tenure as the executive director of Inside/Out Youth Services, a GLBT youth organization in Colorado Springs, to travel and write, before relocating to D.C.’s Cleveland Park to live with her partner, Leslie Schafer.

A Michigan native who acquired a master’s degree in education, with a focus on issues surrounding LGBT youth in schools, Hill is now turning her attention to gay youth in Washington.

”[LGBT] youth everywhere are at high risk for homelessness, substance abuse, unsafe sexual behavior and suicide,” she says. ”It is my intention to increase [SMYAL’s] visibility in the D.C.-area so that we have the ability to provide services to more and more youth in our community.”

Services provided by a gay and lesbian student group at her alma mater, the University of Nevada, helped Hill come out as a lesbian.

”I was able to access a community of my peers very readily,” she says. ”That’s one of the services that SMYAL provides that I feel is so important for the youth in our community; to have a place to go to meet up with other people who are just like them, who might be going through some of the same issues they’re going through, and facing the same challenges [they are facing].”

Hill also credits comic Suzanne Westenhoefer’s early ’90s appearance on Sally Jessy Raphael, in which she spoke openly about being a lesbian, for helping her find self-acceptance.

”I had the opportunity, several times during the last few years, to run into [Westenhoefer] and she thinks that’s hilarious, that I saw her on a TV show and thought, ‘Maybe I’m gay,”’ Hill says.

As SMYAL brings in a new leader, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to ending discrimination and harassment against military personnel, bids farewell to its longtime executive director and co-founder C. Dixon Osburn.

Osburn is resigning this month to ”pursue new career opportunities,” according to a SLDN press release.

”It has been an honor, privilege and inspiration to work with our men and women in uniform who fight for our freedom even when denied their own,” Osburn says in the release.

”I am glad that I could do my small part for them, and for all Americans who believe in equality and our nation’s security. I have had the privilege of working with amazing staff and board members. I leave proud of our record of accomplishment together and confident that the days of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ are numbered. After 13 years of work here, it is time for me to explore new opportunities.”

Osburn co-founded SLDN with Michelle M. Benecke in 1993, and became the sole executive director of the organization upon Benecke’s departure in 2000. Today, SLDN operates with a $3 million budget, and includes 17 full-time staff members, as well as several volunteers and pro bono attorneys. Osburn received the 2007 GALLA Leadership Award from Harvard Law School Lambda, an LGBT student association at the school.

Kathleen DeBold, who had previously served as the deputy director of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, an organization that supports LGBT political candidates, as well as the executive director of the Mautner Project, a lesbian health organization, has been named the interim executive director of SLDN until a permanent replacement is found.

Upon her resignation from the Mautner Project, DeBold, whose mother passed away in November 2006, said she plans to spend more time with her father as well as her partner, Barbara Johnson. She has also made it clear that she does not intend to become the permanent executive director at SLDN.

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