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Beswick hired to lead Bay Area LGBTQ business association

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Terry Beswick has been named executive director of the Golden Gate Business Association. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Terry Beswick has been named executive director of the Golden Gate Business Association. Photo: Rick Gerharter  

Terry Beswick, who ended his five years as executive director of the GLBT Historical Society September 15, has been hired as the new ED of the Golden Gate Business Association. He's developed a reputation as a "turnaround expert," he said.

Terry Beswick has been hired as the new executive director of the Golden Gate Business Association. The world's first LGBTQ chamber of commerce has not had someone in that position in several years.

As the Bay Area Reporter previously reported, Beswick ended his five years as executive director of the GLBT Historical Society September 15. After a sudden announcement by the historical preservation group late morning September 14, Beswick told the B.A.R. he wouldn't say what was coming next until the end of his term there.

GGBA was founded in 1974. While he has already officially started, Beswick told the B.A.R. that he is "starting with a vacation" as he returns to San Francisco from Palm Springs. He'll begin work October 15.

"I look forward to taking a month off," Beswick said. "But, I feel like I'm already working. It's a new gig and I got to learn a lot of new stuff."

Beswick, 62, said he applied for the position after he saw a job posting.

"I'd been familiar with the organization for a long time and I saw they were doing a search," Beswick said. "What interested me was working with business people — small business owners, focusing on their hopes and dreams. It's a nonprofit and I have a lot of experience with that."

Beswick said that GGBA may have picked him because he has developed a reputation as a "turnaround expert," after his time with the GLBT Historical Society and the Castro Country Club, a sober space in the city's LGBTQ neighborhood just down the street from the society's LGBTQ museum on 18th Street.

"The Castro Country Club and the GLBT Historical Society were in trouble when I took them over and I really turned them around to sustainable business models," Beswick said.

Beswick stated that the country club was in dire straits when he took over.

"There was no mailing list, few volunteers, and the building had just been put up for sale," he stated. After a series of initiatives — such as a capital campaign, an annual gala, and partnering with Peet's coffee — things improved.

"It was very grassroots and fun. And so we raised a lot of money and we got a long-term lease and completely renovated the interior of the place to make it fabulous," Beswick stated.

At the historical society, Beswick stated he "more than doubled the organization's budget," which was $1.2 million in the 2019 calendar year according to the organization's IRS 990 form. (It had been $552,236 in the 2015 calendar year, according to that year's 990.)

"The society actually was in debt when I began my job on a part-time basis, and is now financially stable, with a small operating reserve," Beswick stated "Most recently, I secured funding from the City and County of San Francisco to open a full-scale museum of LGBTQ history and culture in the city, which will be one of the first in the nation."

Michael Gunther, a gay man who is the president of the GGBA's board of directors, said that Beswick's application "was an amazing opportunity for us to bring in a seasoned individual to help us grow."

"We had almost 70 candidates for the position and Terry had executive director experience in the LGBTQ community and in making organizations become sustainable," Gunther said. "Terry brought advocacy experience as well."

Gunther said there had not been an executive director of the GGBA in about a decade. Having been on the board for only the last three years, Gunther said he only knew the last executive director was named JP. A B.A.R. obituary shows Jon Paul "JP" Leddy was the board president at the time of his 2016 death of natural causes at the age of 55.

When asked how he's going to turn around the GGBA, Beswick said "the first thing I need to do once I start is to work closely with the board."

"I have to listen to the members," Beswick said. "Obviously, we're coming out of a COVID pandemic and a lot of businesses have a lot of needs, so on a courtesy level, I'll be working with a lot of policymakers to try and address those needs. It's a big challenge, which is why they selected me, because I have a history of growing organizations to meet needs."

Beswick said that his work with the GGBA ties into the work he was already doing with the historical society.

"As far as the transition between the historical society and the GGBA, it made sense to me," Beswick explained. "To me, a big focus of my work at the historical society was preserving our living LGBTQ history."

It was due to this that Beswick was involved in both the creation of the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District and the city's historic preservation efforts.

Serving LGBTQ-owned and patronized businesses will help preserve the city's living history, Beswick said.

"I see that as integral," he said.

Beswick said he is going to continue to be a "big booster" for the historical society. The society runs the museum of the same name in the heart of the city's LGBTQ Castro neighborhood on 18th Street between Castro and Collingwood streets and for some years now has been searching for a larger, permanent location in the area. As the B.A.R. previously reported earlier this year, Mayor London Breed budgeted $12 million for the city to build the first large-scale, freestanding LGBTQ history museum, though city funding for the existing museum is being decreased.

As the B.A.R. reported in October 2019, the archival group had determined it made the most sense for it to construct a full-scale LGBTQ Museum and Research Center somewhere in the Castro neighborhood based on the recommendations of a feasibility study it had conducted. The consultants estimated that a combined facility would require a gross building size of 40,000 square feet, with around 20,000 square feet dedicated for the exhibit area, and draw upward of 106,000 attendees per year.

When asked if he'd be willing to discuss further the changes at the historical society, Beswick said, "I think your article covered it pretty well, and the statement we put out from the historical society."

Gunther and Beswick declined to state the latter's salary. GGBA's most recent publicly available IRS 990 form, for Fiscal Year 2018-2019, has nobody in an executive director position. (Neither did the previous two years' 990s.)

In FY 2018-2019, the organization had a total revenue of $259,601 and spent $242,856.

Updated, 9/23/21: This article has been updated to more accurately state that the Castro Country Club is a sober space.

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