NEW YORK CITY — The nation's largest LGBT group announced a major staffing change today, as Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin told board members and staff that HRC vice president of policy and strategy David Smith will be leaving the organization in June.
Smith has been with the organization off and on since the 1990s, leaving at one point to serve as the communications director for Sen. Edward Kennedy.
The move is the second senior staff announcement in recent weeks. Jeff Krehely — currently the vice president of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress — was named HRC's chief foundation officer on Jan. 22.
The changes are the two highest-profile staff moves since Griffin took over the helm of the organization in June 2012.
Griffin and Smith's letters follow:
There are few who have done more to advance the cause of LGBT equality than David Smith. Most of you know him best as HRC's Vice President of Policy and Strategy, but his lifetime of service began when the progress we know today was still just a distant dream—a dream urged on a small core of advocates like David.
Today, every lesbian and gay service member openly defending the country they love, every committed LGBT couple that is wed, each hate crime that goes punished and every welcoming workplace, hospital, church and statehouse bears the mark of his labor. Nearly every aspect of the Human Rights Campaign as it currently exists was made possible by his vision, his dedication and his unflinching belief that we should dream big.
That's why it's with a heavy heart and eminent gratitude that I announce David's decision to leave HRC in order to pursue an exciting new chapter in his career at the end of June.
David will leave behind an incredible record of accomplishment. Even before he started at HRC in 1995, David had spent the better part of his career fully engaged in the fight for LGBT equality. During his first tenure at HRC, he coordinated one of our first national television ad campaigns and led our response to the tragic murder of Matthew Shepard—putting hate crimes on the national agenda. He was on the team that established our first National Dinner, where then-President Bill Clinton would be the first sitting president to speak before an LGBT group. His work made HRC a household name.
After a year and a half spent serving as Communications Director to the late Senator Edward Kennedy, David returned to HRC in 2005 as Vice President of Policy and Strategy. Since then, he's overseen our legislative, legal, communications and Foundation programs during a truly incredible period of accomplishment—including the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and the expansion of marriage equality from New York to Washington state.
Those of you who have worked with David directly know him to be incredibly passionate, kind, hard-working and generous. He's been a mentor, a sounding-board, and an advocate for good ideas wherever they emerge. His institutional memory is second to none, and he cares deeply, profoundly and wholly about the work we do.
His words speak best: "I have loved every minute spent at HRC, and when I look around today I see an incredible staff that is making equality a reality nationwide with tireless work, savvy and fresh ideas. I know that I've played a role in building the organization as it now exists, and this fact gives me enormous professional pride. But it also gives me the satisfaction of knowing that the institution is in good hands—that the strength of this organization today gives me the liberty to try something new for myself."
We wish David the very best as he charts this new course in his career. I thank him from the bottom of my heart for his advice as I took on this job last year, and I will be forever grateful for his service to our community.
David's letter to me follows.
January 29, 2013
Human Rights Campaign
1640 Rhode Island Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20036
One week after a defining moment in the LGBT movement, I'm writing to share with you some thoughts about my professional future. After more than three decades spent serving in our movement for equality—nearly two decades of which were here at HRC—I believe the time has come for me to pursue professional opportunities elsewhere.
I have loved every minute spent at HRC, and when I look around today I see an incredible staff that is making equality a reality nationwide with tireless work, savvy and fresh ideas. I know that I've played a role in building the organization as it now exists, and this fact gives me enormous professional pride. But it also gives me the satisfaction of knowing that the institution is in good hands—that the strength of this organization today gives me the liberty to try something new for myself. So it's with the feelings of a proud parent that I submit my resignation, effective June 30th, 2013.
When I joined this organization in the 1990s, our central goal was to consolidate our political power and to master its effective use. In the last decade, we exercised that power to halt discrimination and to enact federal laws that made a difference in millions of lives. Today, our progress and our public support grow faster every day, and they show no signs of slowing down—so much so that marriage equality soon will be considered by the U.S. Supreme Court.
To have been part of this national transformation has been a profound and humbling privilege. The passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the enactment of marriage equality in New York, and our victories this past November—as well as the remarkable and gifted teams I've worked with and led to help secure these victories—will stay with me forever.
But with the successful election and Inauguration behind us, now is the perfect time to chart the next phase of my career. I hope these next few months will give you ample time to make the decisions you deem necessary with regard to the position I will vacate.
I leave with the highest confidence that you are going to accomplish great things at HRC. Our community could have no greater warrior-general at the helm of its largest civil rights organization, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to serve with you and others for all these years.
My very best wishes,
Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
Contact Chris Geidner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.