More than 120 candidates applied for Lawrence Community Shelter director position; board aims to select next shelter leader within weeks
photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World
The Lawrence Community Shelter Board of Directors received well over 100 applications for the shelter’s executive director position, and a board committee leading the search process has already narrowed the field to a group of 10 candidates.
In fact, if all goes to plan, the board will have selected the shelter’s next leader from among that smaller group in the space of just the next month. At a meeting Thursday evening, board members laid out the timeline for how the interview process will play out and decided to aim for the final step in the process — interviewing the top two candidates with the full board — to take place during the group’s Thursday, Dec. 21 meeting.
As the Journal-World has reported, the board voted to conduct a national search for a permanent executive director earlier this month. The shelter’s current leader, interim executive director Melanie Valdez, has been serving in the role since April 2022.
All told, there were 121 applicants for the role, and board president Charlie Bryan said the majority of the 10 candidates left standing are already located in the area near Lawrence.
“Broadly, I was really pleased with the number of applicants we had — that was more than I expected,” Bryan told the board. “… There were folks that had a lot of strong leadership experience in nonprofits, but they maybe weren’t familiar with (working with homeless) populations, so it was nice that some of those people familiar with the population also had that experience.”
The board decided on a three-step interview process, starting with interviewing the initial group of 10 candidates via Zoom on Monday, Dec. 11, and Tuesday, Dec. 12, then narrowing the field further to four candidates. Those candidates would then take part in a second round of interviews later the same week with a panel of shelter partners and stakeholders. The panel will include two board members, a shelter guest, a shelter staff member, shelter donors, representatives with the City of Lawrence and Douglas County and community partner organizations.
The consensus among the group was for the final interviews to take place sooner rather than later, especially considering the approaching holidays.
Assistant Douglas County Administrator Jill Jolicoeur told the group the county would handle background checks during the interview process.
As the Journal-World has reported, whoever is ultimately hired for the position will be responsible for managing The Village — the Pallet Shelter community to be located at 256 N. Michigan St. — and much more. The shelter’s board has still yet to submit a proposal to the city indicating what level of funding support LCS would need to officially serve as operator at The Village, but board members reaffirmed Thursday that the shelter is still willing to do so and will take action to that end at a special meeting in the coming weeks.
Construction at The Village is currently in progress and is slated to wrap up before the end of this week. Misty Bosch-Hastings, the city’s homeless programs coordinator, told board members that job descriptions have already been developed for the roles that will need to be staffed on site, including a supervisor.