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Los Angeles LGBT Center names new leader; longtime chief executive set to retire

Lorri Jean
Lorri Jean speaks during a celebration at West Hollywood Park on Friday, June 26, 2015 in West Hollywood, California.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles LGBT Center, one of the world’s largest service agencies for LGBTQ people, has named a new chief executive to succeed its longtime leader.

Joe Hollendoner, chief executive of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, will assume the new role in L.A. on July 6, the Los Angeles LGBT Center announced Wednesday. He will share the title for a year with Lorri L. Jean, who will retire in July 2022 after 25 years at the helm.

“It is an honor of a lifetime to be selected to lead the Los Angeles LGBT Center following such an iconic leader as Lorri Jean,” Hollendoner said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the Center’s board, staff and partners to ensure that the Center not only continues to be a trusted provider of care to the communities it currently serves but that we deepen our work to address the racial disparities and systemic racism that prohibits all members of the LGBTQ+ community from thriving.”

The Los Angeles LGBT Center, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019, has 10 locations, more than 800 employees, and myriad services for LGBTQ people, including medical care, senior services, homeless youth housing and legal services.

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A portrait of Joe Hollendoner.
Joe Hollendoner, incoming chief executive of the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
(Los Angeles LGBT Center)

Hollendoner, 39, was selected after a four-month national search that included candidates from government, business and nonprofit organizations.

Hollendoner has led the San Francisco AIDS Foundation since 2016. He previously was chief of staff and first deputy commissioner at the Chicago Department of Public Health. Prior to that, he was vice president and chief program officer at Howard Brown Health, a Chicago-based LGBTQ health organization, where he worked from 2001 to 2012. There, he helped to found the Broadway Youth Center, a health and social services center for homeless LGBTQ youth.

Phill Wilson, founder of the Los Angeles-based Black AIDS Institute, said the Los Angeles LGBT Center was a “vitally important organization for our community, and it is also large and very complex.” Hollendoner, he said in a statement, is “one of the few people in the country with the skills, experience, and passion required to lead this organization into the future.”

“We are living in uncertain and unprecedented times,” Wilson said. “At times like this, leadership matters.”

Jean, 63, first served as the L.A. LGBT Center’s executive director from 1993 to 1999. She returned in 2003, and has been at the helm ever since.

When she began, the center had just one campus, on Schrader Boulevard in Hollywood, an $8-million annual budget and about 125 staff members, Jean said in an interview. Now, she said, it has a $140-million budget and about 800 employees.

Public attitudes toward LGBTQ people — and the center itself — have changed dramatically during her tenure.

Jean said that when she started there had never been a corporate gift to the center, except for alcohol companies giving some money during gay pride events.

She said she closed the first corporate gift in 1993 from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation — but that the foundation requested it be given to the Jeffrey Goodman Special Care Clinic, the center’s AIDS medical clinic, because the name was more discreet and the foundation was then coy about giving to an LGBTQ organization.

“Foundations that even 10 years ago were very reluctant to give gay now feel like they must have something LGBT in their portfolio,” she said.

The center has lost “well over $10 million” during the coronavirus pandemic, she said. It had to cancel every fundraising event for 2020 and has started canceling events for 2021, too.

But so far, she said, it has not laid off any staff or cut benefits.

An Arizona native, Jean was an attorney and deputy director of FEMA’s Region 9 office in San Francisco before joining the center.

In the 1980s, she was working for FEMA in Washington when she became president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance. She took on the volunteer role even though she had not yet come out to her co-workers in D.C.

Jean was planning to come out to her bosses, but before she could, Washington police raided a gay bar late one night while wearing masks and gloves because they feared getting AIDS. She organized a protest on the front steps of the Metropolitan Police Department.

“It was all over the news,” she said. “I had a big coming-out.”

At work the next day, colleagues avoided her — until her boss loudly told Jean that he was proud of her.

Jean, the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s longest-serving chief executive, called her work there “the honor of a lifetime” and said she felt “a huge amount of relief” when Hollendoner was selected: “I knew that he could do the job.”

“He is a powerful, effective leader and will be a great steward of the center on the next phase of its journey,” she said. “And he’s a lot of fun.”


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