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The Board’s Corner: Our Executive Director Transition Update

19 October 2016 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist

The last several months on the ACLU of Utah Board have been busy! We began the summer by preparing for our fearless leader’s departure. Karen McCreary officially stepped down as the Executive Director in August this year. When we first heard of her retirement, many months ago, we were anxious. We all volunteer time and money to the organization because we believe that the work is indispensable in our community. As a queer female Utahn, the ACLU of Utah is my civil liberties watchdog. It protects my families’ rights every single day. In my opinion, the work of the ACLU of Utah cannot slow down for even a day. 

Because Karen had the foresight to give the Board ample notice of her retirement, we have spent almost the entire last year preparing for this transition. It has been exciting and a lot of work! We were able to put together an outstanding recruitment committee of board members and community members to find our next Executive Director. Next, and because of the extraordinary work that the ACLU does in Utah, we received many inquiries from highly qualified candidates. In the end, the committee recommended, and the Board selected, the best possible candidate from the pool, Brittney Nystrom. 

Since that time, we have worked diligently to make sure that the transition happened in a way that allowed the ACLU of Utah to carry on without missing a beat. And that is exactly what happened. Brittney is now fully up and running and the staff never even slowed down. From supporting the Standing Rock protesters, to continuing our advocacy around the new prison in Utah, to raising the issue of civil asset forfeiture, to jumping into a little law suit called Drug Enforcement Administration v. Utah Department of Commerce - the staff of the ACLU of Utah has powered through the summer with aggressive advocacy on all fronts. And, although less sexy, the staff members who work on the organization’s budget, internal policies, and logistics have kept pace. For example, internally, we just completed our annual financial audit with flying colors. 

Personally, in the last several months, I have gotten to know Brittney as we have driven from event to event meeting supporters and working on issues. I am glad to report that we have made a fantastic choice! Brittney is no stranger to uphill battles. She has fought for immigrants’ rights in Washington DC for over ten years. Brittney knows what it takes to pit policy with litigation to win civil rights fights. She understands intersectionality of issues and knows that it is not enough to see any issue through one lens. So, yes, she is a fighter, and I look forward to having her in our corners. But, she is also very personable and will work well with our amazing staff. This was important to the Board, because the staff that Karen has put together is simply incredible. We needed a new leader that would preserve and build upon what Karen has so meticulously created. Lastly, and perhaps most important, Brittney is originally from Utah. She understands the complicated dynamics of our state and she has great ideas for moving forward. Our work is immensely important to her. 

In short, after months of preparation for a smooth transition, we have accomplished exactly that. The ship never even slowed down. I am proud of the work we have done. And, as a donator of both time and money, I am confident in continuing to support this organization at the fullest level.  

Dani Hawkes is an attorney working in Salt Lake City and joined the ACLU of Utah Board in 2015.