Wheeler elected president of Nashville Pride Board

A record-breaking number of people attended a Pride meeting July 18 to elect new officers to the Nashville Pride Board, which operates under the name Our Pride Encompasses Nashville (OPEN).

Nearly 50 voting members of OPEN cast ballots in the election held at OutCentral. Pam Wheeler was named president of the board, running unopposed. Two of OPEN's three most recent presidents officially severed ties during the meeting.

Full circle

Wheeler has a lengthy history of volunteerism with Nashville Pride. She first got involved as a volunteer in 1999 and was named festival director the following year, but wasn't a board member.

She served as Pride president in 2002 and 2003, maxing out the consecutive-term limit set by OPEN's bylaws. After a five-year hiatus from helping organize the event, she is back with the passion many think is necessary to grow Nashville Pride.

"I came back because I wanted to be a part of growing Pride," Wheeler said. "I talked with several others who remembered how difficult it was to organize the event eight or nine years ago when we didn't know anyone in the community. We struggled every step of the way"

But the new board is filled with many members who are well established and connected within the GLBT and greater-Nashville communities. Wheeler is confident the board will be successful in organizing the event.

Randall Roop was elected vice president, running unopposed, Chris King was elected CFO and Jenn Garrett was named secretary, running unopposed.

Seven members-at-large were also elected. Rob Sikorski was named chair of the members-at-large, which include Jack Davis, Keith Hinkle, Jason Hunt, MAC, Scott Ridgway and Rachel White.

A seasoned board

Wheeler, Roop and Garrett and many of the members-at-large have all helped organize past Pride festivals in Nashville.

Roop said working under pressure with the previous Pride board was a valuable experience.

"It was hell on Earth having only a handful of people to organize this past Pride," Roop said during the meeting. "But it was a great crash course in getting involved for the (vice president) position this year."

Wheeler said several other community members have expressed to her an interest in having a major role in helping arrange the festival.

"We have close to 20 people committed to helping plan Pride and we'll gladly accept help from anyone who wants to volunteer," Wheeler said.

The board's first and most daunting task will be fundraising, Wheeler said.

According to documents provided by former secretary Keith Kidwell during the meeting, OPEN has $13,927.29 in outstanding debt, and is awaiting $5,250 in uncollected funds. Wheeler said it is unclear whether or not all of the outstanding funds from sponsors will be collected. Click here for related story.

"The debt is certainly a big deal," Wheeler said. "But we're getting involved early enough to handle it. I don't think any of us would have gotten involved if we didn't think we could do it and see the community step up to the challenge."

Wheeler said membership drives will play a big role in funding the upcoming festival.

"If everyone who cares about Pride and wants it to grow became a member for $10, we'd be ready to move into 2009," she said.

The next Pride meeting will be held on Monday, Sept. 15, at 6:30 p.m. at OutCentral, located at 1709 Church St. in Nashville.

Severed ties

John Reynolds, who was named interim-president June 30 by then-president Doug Sladen when Sladen stepped down from the position, resigned immediately after calling the meeting to order.

"My involvement with Pride will end at this moment," Reynolds said.

Reynolds said he would have no part in the planning or financing of the upcoming Pride festival and then left the meeting.

Brad Bennett, who resigned as Pride president before this year's June Pride festival, also announced the end of his involvement in Pride during the meeting.

"I have decided to sever my relationship with Pride due to personal reasons," Bennett said.

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