Former St. James ED tapped to lead LYRIC

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Monday October 19, 2020
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Toni Newman will be the new executive director of LYRIC.
Toni Newman will be the new executive director of LYRIC.

Toni Newman, the former leader of St. James Infirmary, has been selected as the new interim executive director of the Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center in the Castro, according to an October 19 news release.

"After an extensive interview process with the board of directors, LYRIC staff, and LYRIC youth, it became clear that Toni is the leader for LYRIC at this moment," LYRIC board co-chairs Adam Leonard and Phil Kim stated in the release. "The board's unanimous decision to welcome Toni to LYRIC speaks to our confidence in her leadership and experience."

Jodi Schwartz, a queer woman who has been the executive director for 15 years, will continue to serve as president of the nonprofit and lead the $2 million capital campaign for the renovation of LYRIC's purple house on Collingwood Street.

"I am so grateful for the opportunity to join the dedicated and devoted LYRIC staff, board, volunteers, and donors," Newman stated. "I am humbled at what has been accomplished and achieved by the current executive director, Jodi Schwartz, and this exceptional organization. I am excited at the opportunities and possibilities of who we can become as we seek to continue our legacy of a diverse society where LGBTQQ youth are embraced for who they are and encouraged to be who they want to be. I am a living example of LYRIC's mission and vision."

In an interview with the Bay Area Reporter October 19, Newman said she was asked if she'd be interested in the position by a board member and is working as the interim executive director of LYRIC from her Los Angeles home.

"It's the Zoom era," she said. "All my six interviews with board members, staff, and participants were all on Zoom done right here from my living room."

Newman said she is not interested in applying for the position of being the permanent executive director, which she said will open up in six to eight months.

"We will transition to a permanent ED and I am not interested in that but I am very interested in helping the transition and helping LYRIC move forward as a unionized nonprofit," Newman said.

Newman, a trans woman, previously served as executive director at St. James Infirmary, which focuses on offering health care and social services to current and former sex workers and others, from May 2018 to February 2020, when she abruptly resigned, citing the impending move to Los Angeles in a contemporaneous interview with the Bay Area Reporter.

St. James Infirmary has not stated to the B.A.R. on the record who is in charge there, going so far as to shut the door on an inquiring reporter earlier this year after giving conflicting information.

Newman said she hears St. James does not currently have an executive director.

"I have no clue. I've had interactions with a few people but most are no longer there," she said. "I know they don't have an executive director — my title — yet."

St. James Infirmary confirmed there is no executive director as of October 19 in a phone call made in the late afternoon, but has not responded as yet to the question of who is in charge.

Gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman praised the selection of Newman in a statement to the B.A.R. October 20.

"Toni Newman is an experienced LGBTQ+ nonprofit leader and I am looking forward to working with her as she guides LYRIC through this important transition period," Mandelman wrote in an email. "LYRIC is a lifeline for queer youth in the Castro and across San Francisco and their services and space will be especially important to the community as we come out of the pandemic. I would also like to thank Jodi Schwartz for the 15 years she has dedicated to supporting LGBTQ+ youth in San Francisco during her tenure as LYRIC's executive director."

As for LYRIC, earlier this month, the San Francisco Planning Commission approved plans for the organization to move forward with extensive renovations to its queer youth center at 127 Collingwood Street in the Castro neighborhood.

LYRIC's $2 million capital renovation project received $200,000 of city money through Mandelman's office.

Jodi Schwartz will stay on as president of the nonprofit.  

Schwartz told the B.A.R. she will stay on as president until the completion of the capital renovation project, and that Newman will focus on day-to-day operations while she leverages her connections in the community to get the project completed.

"Part of this decision is evolutionary, considering the growth of the organization," she said. "We have to have an ED focused on youth and staff and then someone focusing on the future of the organization.

"It was about finding the right time and opportunity to look to the community for a new executive director," Schwartz added, saying that she had been "in conversation" about departing the executive director position "for some time."

Schwartz said that half of the people LYRIC serves are transgender or gender-nonconforming, and that having Newman as the leader is crucial to making sure their needs are being met.

"Having a leader reflect their identity is very important," Schwartz said. "I want to make the transition as effortless and seamless as possible."

Newman's salary will be $155,000, according to LYRIC spokesperson David Perry.

Perry stated that Schwartz's salary can be found on the organization's IRS form 990. The most recent form publicly available, from Fiscal Year 2017-2018, shows a salary of $133,510.

Perry added that Schwartz will be reducing her time to 80% of a full-time employee on November 1 and to 50% from March 1 until the end of the capital campaign, which is when she has stated she intends to depart.

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