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Published: Saturday, 6/1/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Toledo Lucas County Homelessness Board announces first full-time director

Wash. transplant to lead agency

BY DANIELLE TRUBOW
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Toledo Lucas County Homelessness Board announced Friday that it has hired its first full-time executive director to replace its part-time executive director, Deb Conklin.

Thomas Bonnington, who moved to Toledo from Moses Lake, Wash., will step into the position Monday.

He was one of more than 60 candidates from across the country who applied for the position. Ms. Conklin, who was not involved in the selection, said she will guide Mr. Bonnington until she retires, which she anticipates to be within two weeks.

Joe Tafelski, search committee leader and executive director of Advocates for Basic Legal Equality Inc., said Mr. Bonnington was one of 12 candidates to be interviewed by phone and one of three to be interviewed in a teleconference.

“It was a unanimous vote ... [Mr. Bonnington] has the best combination of administrative management experience and experience working with those who are homeless, impoverished, and incarcerated ... And he ... understands community relations and the importance of trying to prevent, reduce, and eliminate homelessness,” Mr. Tafelski said.

The Homelessness Board is a nonprofit, planning group that receives federal funding and is responsible for developing a communitywide, targeted response to homelessness in Toledo and Lucas County. Mr. Bonnington is the board’s first full-time executive director and will receive a $65,000 salary — $30,000 more than Ms. Conklin's $35,000 part-time salary.

The search committee, composed of board members Veronica Burkhardt, Kyle Grefe, Rodney Schuster, Jane Moore, and Mr. Tafelski, was formed during the summer of 2012 after Ms. Conklin indicated she wanted to retire by the end of that year. But Ms. Burkhardt said the board was waiting for funding sources to be streamlined and Ms. Conklin was willing to remain employed until June 30.

The homelessness board has been criticized recently by some shelter directors, who have said the board is too fixated on “rapid-rehousing," has sacrificed money for other essential help given to homeless people, and has implemented a centralized intake process for clients that many shelter directors opposed.

Ms. Conklin declined to comment on the appointment of Mr. Bonnington but refuted claims that the board has been controversial and said it has been faithful to the community and has secured millions of dollars for services.

Board members said the position needed to become full-time to accommodate the amount of work involved.

Mr. Bonnington, who has served as a mental health counselor, crime victims program manager for victims of general crimes, and community services director to end homelessness, said he will set formal goals after meeting with shelter officials.

“People need to understand that our job is to make ourselves unemployed.

“This is a tough job, but as we get more successful and the numbers go down, it’ll mean changes in how we do business,” he said.

Contact Danielle Trubow at: dtrubow@theblade.com or 419-724-6129.



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