Over the last few weeks, the Charlotte, N.C. LGBTQ community has been abuzz with gossip, speculation and more in finding out what happened in the sudden departure by former Time Out Youth Center (TOY) Executive Director Rodney Tucker from his 10-year tenure.

The board, community leaders and others have been asked to share what they know about the “why” to no avail. Tucker is also one of those who have remained closed lipped about what went down.

Not knowing has certainly challenged a number of individuals’ thinking about the happenstance, but Erin Goldstein, board chair, would say anything about Tucker’s resignation nor the reasons leading up to the circumstance surrounding it. There was, however, a temporal void from the vacancy he left. His sojourn at the helm of the youth organization was seen by TOY as remarkable. And what has been shared has been that of a host of accolades about the major accomplishments he made in helping take a modest group from the basement of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church on The Plaza to ownership of a building on Monroe Rd. and an explosive expansion of services, staff and options for those TOY serves.

Goldstein did share that the board of directors was grateful to Tucker for his 10 years of service. She added that under Tucker’s leadership, the organization “experienced tremendous growth and became an agent for change … he helped elevate LGBTQ youth in the community.” She asserted that his ability to foster a healthy and meaningful relationship with his staff was also seen as an example of Tucker’s high regard among his peers and his professional stature within the community at large.

Goldstein added that although no one knows what the future holds, TOY would certainly entertain collaboration with Tucker. “We wish him the most success in his next endeavor.”

Under Tucker’s leadership the organization “moved from a small, local non-profit to becoming a nationally recognized center. Rodney helped TOY secure a permanent home and was the face of TOY during the controversy surrounding HB2,” Goldstein added. Tucker said he was extremely proud of that accomplishment, especially since it allowed TOY to never have to move again. The current facility was a purchase for the organization and not leased property. With more visibility with a building that was “pretty and bright,” youth became more comfortable with having their family visit the center. From that experience, many youth and family members became more engaged with the work of TOY.

Tucker said that he was proud of his accomplishments at TOY, adding that he was able to hire good staff members to serve youth and community needs. On a daily basis, he said that people do not see what goes into the everyday work of shepherding young people, from providing a safety net to helping them with basis essentials for life. Under Tucker’s leadership, when COVID-19 hit and the center could not comfortably hold in-person events and programs, his staff who had been working with some national supporters and others for three years, was able to bring a virtual experience to those they served. The preparation for this method was ready to launch, thus not having large gaps of service interruptions to their served community. Other connectivity initiatives helped make lives as normal as possible — cell phones, groceries, etc.

Tucker added that the success of the online platform extended out to a partnership with Planned Parenthood of the South Atlantic where youth were asking difficult, honest questions to the healthcare provider. Planned Parenthood, Tucker added, said that the conversations were the most honest and direct that they had ever experienced.

In the meantime, O’Neale Atkinson, who has served as a TOY youth staff director and speaks nationally on youth-related issues, has accepted the role as interim executive director as the board evaluates TOY’s current needs, assembles a search committee that will work with a human resources consultant to “help conceptualize and create a comprehensive job description for the ED role to support Time Out Youth’s continued growth and leadership in the community. Following, we will execute a national search for candidates. We do not want to rush this — we want to give this process the time necessary to make sure the position (and candidates) are reflective of the needs of TOY … [and] also hired a new employee that is focused on youth outreach and online programming to ensure our LGTBQ youth’s needs are anticipated and met.” Goldstein said. The formal national search will commence this fall.

Tucker shared that TOY was in good hands with Atkinson’s appointment and knows that he has the passion and savvy to shepherd the agency during this time of transition.

To add to all of this news, Tucker has already secured another position in short order. Upon hearing the news that Tucker had left TOY, Rosedale Health and Wellness CFO and Dudley’s Place Executive Director Dale Pierce seized the opportunity to snatch up this long-time leader and add his wealth of knowledge to the medical clinic and non-profit located in Huntersville, N.C. that has a large focus on healthcare and HIV/AIDS treatment.

On Aug. 24, Tucker will assume the newly created position as director of development and advancement and will use his broad experience in the AIDS service organization field to bolster the work that Rosedale and Dudley’s provide for those they serve.

Tucker had previously worked for RAIN, the Regional HIV/AIDS Consortium (now known as Carolinas CARE Partnership), ALFA (AIDS Leadership Foothills-Area Alliance), among others. He was the first AIDS prevention specialist at the Consortium, he shared.

He considers this move as a way to “come home” to the work he knew so well prior to his youth organization experience at TOY. It was his original passion.

He is excited to be back working in healthcare. He said that working on prevention issues will be a key focus in his new role, among other items. With COVID-19, many people are not going to doctors as they should, and Tucker wants LGBTQ patients to know that they will receive the care they need in a safe environment. During his three-week decompression/vacation between jobs, he has been resting and using the time to think about programs and initiatives he would like to bring to the table, but knows that it will take a little time to more fully know what is needed once he starts on his new adventure. Dudley’s Place has already seen over 500 clients in its first year, Tucker shared. He knows that there is so much more to do.

Lainey Millen was formerly QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director from 2001-2019 when she retired.