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Utah Pride Center Looks to Future After Valerie Larabee's Resignation

Andrea Smardon
Former Utah Pride Center Exectutive Director Valerie Larabee (KUER file photo)

Officials at the Utah Pride Center are evaluating the future of the LGBTQ advocacy organization today after long-time executive director Valerie Larabee resigned on Wednesday. 

Valerie Larabee says she’s still coming to terms with decision to leave the Utah Pride Center.

“Nine years of being at Utah Pride was an incredible journey, an incredible learning experience, I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but it came at a great cost to me personally,” says Larabee.

In recent weeks, Larabee found herself in the difficult position of having to cut the center’s budget by 30 percent after she realized more than one hundred thousand dollars of grant funding was about to disappear. As a result, two of the center’s full-time employees were laid off and the entire staff took a pay cut.  Charles Frost was one of the employees let go.  He was director of the center’s SAGE program which focuses on service to older members of the gay community.  Frost has since returned to SAGE as a volunteer but he says Larabee’s leadership style was holding the center back.

“It was a culture of fear. It was a culture driven by punishment and a lack of rewards. And it was a culture of people not being able to bring their best selves to work nor their best ideas to work,” says Frost.

John Netto is the president of the center’s board and now its interim director.

“We didn’t find any malfesence. We didn’t find misappropriation of funds.  We didn’t find that she created a hostile work environment,” says Netto.

Netto and the board weren’t ready to fire Larabee, but a series of three letters expressing no confidence in Larabee, written and signed by advocates and employees, including Charles Frost, led Netto to believe that new leadership was needed.

“Valerie realized and I realized in that moment that it is not in the best interest of this center for this dialogue to be centered around one person. And I think once we concluded that that was probably the way it was going to go, Valerie understood and realized that her role was over,” says Netto.

Valerie Larabee says she’s proud of her tenure at the Utah Pride Center and she will continue to support is work from afar.

“I think right now I’m going to step aside for a while and heal and rest.  I don’t know what lies ahead. I have some creative interests that I want to pursue,” says Larabee.

John Netto says leaders at Utah Pride will take some time to reflect on the week’s events and then begin a local and national search for a new executive director. 

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