In 1997, John Stotler was just another new face in a crowd of young professionals streaming into town. Charlotte was in the midst of its climb toward Uptown banking power and prestige.

More than a decade later, John’s still here. So are the banks. Well, sort of. Charlotte has seen a tremendous amount of change, some positive and some negative, over the past 10 years. Socially, politically, demographically and economically — the Queen City we call home today is not the same community that existed in 2000.

Soon after moving to Charlotte, Stotler started volunteering with OutCharlotte, once a vibrant LGBT arts and cultural festival. Stotler later served two years on the festival’s committee, with one year of that as co-chair. He also served on the festival’s main board. Later, he joined other community members in helping to organize Charlotte Pride, which ran until the Center’s own Pride Charlotte replaced it in 2006.

Stotler, who joined the Lesbian & Gay Community Center of Charlotte Board of Trustees in 2008, succeeded Denise Palm-Beck as chair of the board this July. His involvement with the Center, however, traces as far back as its first steps toward organizing. Stotler was one of several community members who served various roles in focus groups designed to formulate the future Center’s mission, activities and other logistical concerns. Stotler leant his hand in discussions on the Center’s technological needs.

Now, as chair, Stotler says he’s excited about his continued opportunity to serve and hopes to push the Center into a more open, responsive role in the community.

“We want to offer things that are of benefit to the community,” he says. “What does the community need or want? We toss around ideas on things that we think may be of benefit to the community but I’d like to figure out someway to get feedback from the community for what they want.”

That chance for open feedback, Stotler says, is long overdue: “It’s been 10 or 11 years now since those original town halls where we got together and said this is something we want from our Center,” he says.

Stotler’s idea for a forum or other avenue for discussion is a breath of fresh air, especially considering many community members’ perceptions of a closed- and sealed-off Center unresponsive to the community’s needs or invisible and inactive within the local LGBT community and city-at-large.

Stotler’s aware of those perceptions and, in general, he says they aren’t true. But, perception is reality for many — working to overcome those notions will take diligent efforts to communicate from both ends.

“I want the community to know that the Center is here for the community,” he says. “If there are people in the community who want to see the Center do things, then we need to know about that. If that has been communicated to the Center in the past and nothing’s been done about it, I need to know that, too.”

Stotler adds, “We are definitely looking at ways we can highlight and get information out to the community about what we are doing.”

New leadership at the Center comes at a time when the group has been facing unique challenges. First and foremost, Stotler says, is the economy.

“That’s the obvious challenge,” he relates. “Any non-profit organization trying to maintain any level of service to the community, whatever community it serves, is going to have a lot of challenges now. Over the past couple years, Charlotte has been particularly hit hard with the banks and the changes to the banks. People are unsure in the community about their jobs and where that’s going. That’s impacted their giving, their volunteering.”

Stotler says he thinks the economy has crossed over a critical hump and that the outlook is getting better. “People are starting to feel a lot more confident about things,” he says.

Board members, he adds, also see challenges in better utilizing their physical space at the NC Music Factory. “We’ve got a wonderful space and there’s a lot of times it could be used for other organizations’ events or community activities,” he says. “We’re looking at options for partnering with other groups and doing more at the Center.”

Despite the challenges, Stotler says he’s encouraged by his organization’s several accomplishments over the past few years. Among those, he says, is the continuing GayCharlotte Film Festival. This year, the festival teamed up with the Charlotte Jewish Film Festival and mainstream Charlotte Film Festival. Such partnerships open the Center up to new faces and support, Stotler says.

He’s also encouraged by the Center’s Pride Charlotte, which has run smoothly for several years now, and the Center’s hosting of civic events like MeckPAC candidate receptions and the recent town hall forum with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe. Those types of relationships are continuously needed, Stotler says.

“The Center wants to do more to support relationships in our community,” he says. “Maybe we can do a monthly program or something more regular. We have talked about bringing in the mayor and giving him the opportunity to speak to the community and build a relationship there as well.”

Stotler stresses that internal community- and relationship-building is just as important as any relationship created with straight allies or those outside of the community. Outreach from the Center, he says, will be step one: “We are definitely looking at ways we can highlight and get information back out to the community about what we are doing.” : :

About the Center

820 Hamilton St., Suite B11

Charlotte, NC 28206

704-333-0144

gaycharlotte.com

Board of Trustees

John Stotler, Board Chair

Teresa Davis, Secretary

Frank Kalian, Treasurer

Scott Coleman

Jonathan Hill

Devlin McNeil

Bert Woodard

Feedback or questions?

For general feedback or questions

regarding the Center, email

Fred Brazzell, Center administrator, at

centeradministrator@gaycharlotte.com.

— by Matt Comer

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.

4 replies on “Taking the reins”

  1. Congratulations to John Stotler and the other members of the Board. You do not have an easy task ahead of you in regaining trust and rebuilding the Center into the vibrant heart of the LGBT community it has been and should be.

    I am hopeful that the change in leadership at the Center will truly lead to a change in atmosphere. For the last couple of years, the Center gave the impression of being a clique in which you had to be a member in good standing. Ruffle feathers and you were gone. This was not lost on the LGBT community and it seemed as though the only time effort was made to include the ENTIRE community was Pride.

    Also, the flagrant lack of transparency with regard to its operations, finances and the actions of the Board served to further push away the very LGBT community it is supposed to serve. Until there is disclosure as to finances, ALL finances, I will not contribute any money and have heard this from several members of the community.

    One other suggestion for the new Board: Would it be too much to ask for some sort of actual and visable signage indicating the location of the Center? That small, sad flag is far from adequate. Many people attending Pride were able to find the festival but unable to find the actual Center. Perhaps this would lead to an increase in attendance at events and overall support. Why have you been hiding?

  2. I feel the same as Rita’s comments to this article. Congratulations John, I feel you will do a great job. I think the change in leadership and weeding out some of the board members is the best thing that could have happened for the survival of the LGBT center. Like Rita said you had to belong to a band of brothers to even be acknowledged. I myself stopped attending the round table meetings because it was about the 2 previous persons running it. Now that Teresa Davis is running the round table sessions I will return, I feel she is a dedicated and fair person. It was sad to see the center crumble after so many strived over the years to build it up to something that we could be proud of. . Also I would like to see an annual report. As a 501-c3 an annual report should be available to anyone who wants to see it.

  3. Hi Rita and Janice… and others….

    We are always looking for feedback and ideas. We would love to have a program/event/meeting/etc at The Center every day and night. Please email The Center and those will get passed to the appropriate board member or committee to discuss.

    As for signage, we are working with the NC Music Factory on that. We will have limitations based on their structure and policies as well as agreements they have with the city about signage.

    And relative to financial disclosure, a 2010 Annual Report will be coming after the end of the year with details about all of The Center’s activities this year.

    Thanks,
    John

  4. Is there really only one woman on the board? Now that’s a shame. I’d like to see that change. Also, good luck to John. We need a thriving Center that serves the community.

Comments are closed.