Rick Westbrook, co-founder of Lost-n-Found Youth (LnF), has stepped down from his current position as executive director. Robert Ross, chair of the organization’s board of directors, spoke to Georgia Voice concerning Mr. Westbrook’s resignation.
“Over the last year and a half, the organization has grown so much, expanded so rapidly that some stressors occurred, stressors that may have been liveable prior, but don’t become workable as an agency gets bigger.”
Ross contends that prior shakeups and ensuing controversy surrounding the organization has nothing to do with Westbrook’s resignation.
“It’s just a natural outcome of [Lost-n-Found’s growth] and nobody here has any animosity. It’s a clean break, which is best. That doesn’t mean we won’t welcome him back in the future, but for right now, separation is necessary.”
Ross says Westbrook and the board of directors simply had different visions for the management of the growing organization. “So he tendered his resignation, we accepted it, and now we’re moving on with an executive search.” Ross adds that the event was “rather calm.”
“There’s not a lot of drama leading up to it,” Ross said, “and there’s not a lot of drama to be taken from it.”
Though a change of pace for the face of the organization, which aims to end homelessness for LGBTQ youth, Westbrook has been through the ups (and notable) downs that come with running a business. In 2016, he was demoted from executive director to outreach director amid a shakeup in the organization. Proponents of the demotion claim he was trying to do too much and getting involved in areas that weren’t suited to his abilities. However, due to community backlash that came to a feverish head during an LnF board meeting, Westbrook resumed his role as executive director the following week.
That didn’t sit well with at least three board members — Justin Zielger, Daniel Ashley Pierce, and Skylar Akins — who resigned amid his return to the position. Their complaints contend that not only was transparency and accountability an issue, but that Westbrook was incapable of running a company that has grown beyond $1.1M in capital, and that his salary and benefits package is more befitting to someone with the experience to keep the non-profit afloat. Comparisons were made to Atlanta’s now-defunct YouthPride, in which an exodus of staffers still couldn’t sway the charity’s opinion of what was deemed an unaccountable executive director.
But Ross maintains that all that is behind them and has nothing to do with the current situation and LnF. When asked if Westbrook will have any role in the organization, Ross stated: “For the time being, it’s better for him to step away. It’s better for the staff — there won’t be any confusion. He was the boss and the director for a long time and to have him in a lower position would be kind of awkward.”
Ross agrees that seeing the last remaining of three co-founders of LnF go is sad, but also states that Westbrook “has been there for six and a half years and, of course, in any organization, there’s an evolutionary process. This was all just part of that.”
As for the future of the organization, Ross states: “We will always honor Rick’s vision for the organization.”
Attempts via phone and Facebook were made to reach out to Mr. Westbrook. The newspaper, however, would like to extend the offer for any updates or clarifications from Mr. Westbrook himself.