Johnny Mickler has led the Greater Toledo Urban League for the last decade as its first president, but now he's moving south and returning home to care for his mother and lead the Urban League in his native Greenville, S.C.
His last day at the Toledo Urban League is May 31. He begins the next day as president and chief executive officer of the Urban League in Greenville.
"He's the father of the Urban League [in Toledo] as we know it today," said James Hartung, president of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority and founding chairman of the Toledo Urban League's board of directors.
The board will work with the National Urban League as it looks for a new president.
Mr. Mickler was hired in 1997. The Toledo organization began with two employees and a $162,000 budget, and now has a staff of about 20, an annual budget of $1.1 million, and four sites.
"I can see [the Urban League] moving from almost not being known to see it being recognized in the Toledo community," Mr. Mickler said. "Whoever takes over will take over an affiliate that programmatically is in good, sound shape. We're on solid financial footing."
The move has been in the works for more than two months, said Mr. Mickler, 55. His widowed mother has been bedridden since a massive stroke. Mr. Mickler is the oldest of five children.
"In the South, when you're the oldest child, and the male, and your father died, you're supposed to step up," Mr. Mickler said. The mother of his wife, Tamara, lives near Greenville and also needs medical care.
"It's family matters pulling us back home," Mr. Mickler said.
Mr. Hartung, now vice chairman of the Urban League board, said he understands the circumstances.
But he said he was a "little heartsick."
"I was the chairman when we hired John. And I'm going to miss him. He's been a good friend."
The league's budget is made up largely of government grants for job placement, educational, mentoring, and other programs.
Mr. Mickler said he was most proud that the Urban League has taken hold after previous efforts to organize a Toledo affiliate over decades had failed.
"We got it up and running, and now it's a player in the human services arena," Mr. Mickler said.
Mr. Hartung added: "We managed to grow even in an environment that wasn't conducive to growth. He was that movement. It was John: his perseverance and his focus. That was the constant."
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