CADA picks new interim director

Former Navy public affairs officer Howard Thomas has taken over the reins at the Citizens Against Domestic and Sexual Abuse group as the new interim executive director.

The CADA board of directors voted to hire Thomas April 25. The board has been embroiled in controversy since firing former director Valerie Stafford March 1 and then refusing to publicly explain the decision.

While Thomas has years of experience in marketing, grant writing, management and working with non-profit groups, he admits he doesn’t have the qualifications required to actually supervise CADA’s many grant programs. The state Department of Social and Health Services requires a supervisor to have at least two years of counseling experience with domestic violence programs and at least 50 hours of domestic violence-issue training in the last three years.

As a result, the board recently created a new “program manager” position and staffed it with a person who does have these qualifications. Erika Sanders, a two-year CADA staff member and the new program manager, will be in charge of CADA’s service-providing programs. She’ll report directly to Thomas.

Thomas said he’ll only be able to directly supervise three of the agency’s staff members, namely the finance manager, an administrative assistance and the program manager.

In addition, Thomas said he’ll be busy working on the budget, writing grants and managing grants from afar. And like all CADA employees, he’ll receive 42 hours a year of sexual assault and domestic abuse training through the state.

“First and foremost,” he said, “my job is to provide those folks who have direct contact with victims of sexual and domestic violence the support and resources they need to do their job.”

The interim position pays $20 an hour for 35 hours a week, which Thomas said is “a whole lot less” than what Stafford was paid.

Thomas said he has management and marketing experience from 11 years as the public affairs officer at the Whidbey Island Air Station. Before that, he worked for more than five years on the executive staff of the Navy Medical Command Northwest Region.

Thomas is a real estate agent at ERA Acorn Properties, where he works with CADA Board Vice President Lynn Wilcox. He said he’s going to keep his “hand in” real estate since the CADA position is only interim, though he’s applied for the permanent position.

Also, Thomas has years of experience with non-profit agencies. He served for over 12 years with the Oak Harbor Senior Center Advisory Board. He served for over two years on the Island County Community Health Advisory Board.

In addition, he helped create the Oak Harbor Senior Center Foundation and was recently elected to the Whidbey Island Hospital Foundation Board. He also spearheaded the effort to obtain non-profit status for the PBY Memorial Association. He wrote the grant to Boeing Employees Community Fund for the Senior Center’s bus.

Although Howard hasn’t been involved with CADA in the past, he said he’s always had a lot of respect for the organization.

“I can’t tell you how excited and blessed I am to be afforded the opportunity to take the helm of CADA,” he said. “I love this community and I am dedicated to helping to put an end to violence and abuse here.”

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