Empire State Pride Agenda Names New Executive Director

Levi_Ross Well that was fast. Less than a day after Brian Ellner withdrew his name as a candidate for the top spot at Empire State Pride Agenda, the group today named Ross Levi as its new executive director. Levi had previously been the group's Director of Public Policy & Education.

ESPA has issued a press release about the appointment:

"Ross D. Levi, Esq., was today unanimously named by the Board of the Empire State Pride Agenda as the Executive Director. The Pride Agenda is the largest statewide organization working to achieve equality and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) New Yorkers. Levi has been with the Pride Agenda for more than 10 years based in the Albany office and has been a part of every statewide legislative victory ever achieved by the organization. In the role of Director of Public Policy & Education since 2006, Levi has been responsible for developing the policy priorities and public positions of the Pride Agenda."

Read the the rest of the press release AFTER THE JUMP.

Levi will oversee the Pride Agenda, Inc.'s legislative and political activities, as well as the education and community organizing work of the Empire State Pride Agenda Foundation. The Pride Agenda is New York’s largest statewide LGBT civil rights organization, with an almost $4 million budget and 25 full-time staff. He will be replacing Executive Director Alan van Capelle who left in February to become Deputy Comptroller for External Affairs with New York City Comptroller John Liu. Levi will assume his new role at the Pride Agenda in June.

In accepting the appointment, Ross Levi pledged to win the fight for equality in New York State:  "We are at a pivotal moment. The majority of New Yorkers support our issues: marriage equality, banning discrimination against transgender New Yorkers, and making sure schools are safe from bias and harassment for all students. Government needs to catch up to where the people already are. This is our opportunity and mandate. A broad and powerful coalition working together—LGBT and straight, upstate and downstate, Republican and Democrat, people of faith, business leaders, organized labor, people of color—this is how equality and justice will be achieved. I believe no organization is better suited to help build and galvanize the movement for LGBT equality and justice than the Empire State Pride Agenda.”

Pride Agenda Board of Directors Co-Chairs Frank Selvaggi and Mitch Karsch made the announcement on behalf of the Pride Agenda Board. Frank Selvaggi said: “During our search, Ross was identified as the strongest candidate for the position because of his long history of service to the organization, vast knowledge of state government and strong connection the statewide LGBT community. The Board feels strongly that Ross is the right leader for us. He has brought and will continue to bring to the Pride Agenda the energy and political skills we need to win equality."  Mitch Karsch said:  “The organizing and education the LGBT community has done around our issues has us positioned to win.  We look forward to Ross continuing to build on that record to pass marriage equality legislation, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act and the Dignity for All Students Act.”

Prior to serving as Director of Public Policy & Education, Levi was the Pride Agenda’s Legislative Counsel from 2000 to 2003 and Director of Public Policy and Governmental Affairs from 2004 to 2006. During his time at the Pride Agenda he has been actively involved with the passage of dozens of laws, ordinances, regulations and Executive Orders on the state and local level affecting New York’s LGBT community, including statewide measures like: the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act; the Hate Crimes Act of 2000; making the state’s 9/11 relief inclusive of same-sex couples; guaranteeing domestic partners hospital visitation, legal authority over a loved one’s bodily remains, access to Family Court and medical decision making authority; prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression in state employment; and securing over $50 million of funding for LGBT health and human services.

Before joining the Pride Agenda, Levi was Legislative Director for New York State Senator Nellie Santiago of Brooklyn. He began his work in state government in 1997 with a New York State Senate Fellowship. He also served as a legal intern with the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Office of Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger, Judge David Trager of the Eastern District of New York and the Civil Rights Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York.

Levi has served on the Board of Directors of the New York Civil Liberties Union Capital Region Chapter, and is currently on their Advisory Committee. He was Co-Counsel to and a member of the Board of Directors of the Capital District Gay and Lesbian Community Council (CDGLCC) in Albany, and has been awarded their Council Leadership Award and Harvey Milk Award. The Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club has also recognized him for his service to the Capital District’s LGBT community. He was also a longtime member of Heritage of Pride. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Equality Federation, the national alliance of state-based LGBT advocacy organizations, on its Executive Committee as Secretary and as Chair of its Governance Committee.

Levi graduated from Brooklyn Law School and Boston University. He lives in rural Stephentown, NY with his partner.

Posted May 23, 2010 at 1:17am ETC by Steve Pep
in Brian Ellner, New York