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Less than one month after being named interim CEO of the nonprofit San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside (SAGE), Akeem Brown has submitted his resignation to its board.
The former director of operations resigned Tuesday. Brown had been serving as interim CEO since Jackie Gorman stepped down in September following nearly 10 years with the organization.
SAGE advocates for and invests in small business and encourages development on the historically neglected East Side. Gorman was widely credited with focusing and enhancing the nonprofit’s operations. She established loan and grant programs that helped small businesses thrive in evolving Eastside neighborhoods.
In September, the nonprofit announced it had received a $40,000 grant to research and develop a plan for equitable neighborhood development. The funding came from a collaboration between JPMorgan Chase & Co. and the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders.
SAGE Board Chairman Robert Melvin told the Rivard Report on Thursday that the board received Brown’s resignation letter stating he had decided to pursue other interests. “We had not overtly discussed it, but I was aware he was actively looking,” Melvin said. “When someone resigns, their decision is pretty much made. Clearly, something had moved his spirit to move on and we respected that.”
Melvin said he will serve as interim CEO, an unpaid role, until a new leader is identified. There are five current candidates for CEO, Melvin said, and all are local. Melvin said Brown also applied for the permanent job. “As far as I know, he is still part of the applicant selection process,” he said.
But Brown denied applying for the job. “I was asked by the board chair to submit my résumé for information and review, not for the position of CEO, but for interim CEO,” Brown said.
Brown joined SAGE two years ago, after holding positions in the EastPoint office and with the City of San Antonio. “I was recruited by the board of SAGE in regard to a succession plan,” he said. “So Jackie [Gorman] and the board brought me on with the idea that Jackie would retire.”
He resigned this week, he said, due to a difference of opinion about the future role of SAGE in the community.
“My vision was to continue the services we currently have, but the board chair wanted to see otherwise,” Brown said, adding that he hoped SAGE would become a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), a private financial institution that makes affordable loans to help low-income, low-wealth, and other disadvantaged people and communities.
“Most people on the East Side cannot access the capital they need, and SAGE wanted to be that incubator for that access to capital. The board wanted to see us reduce the programs and services that we offer in San Antonio. I can’t agree with that. When you look at the ecosystem on the East Side, we are who the East Side depends on. Our board members didn’t understand that,” Brown said.
Melvin said the selection committee will be interviewing five candidates for the CEO job next week. “The pool [of candidates] has been stellar,” he said. In the meantime, the organization is “rocking and rolling,” with a slate of events planned through the end of the year.
“For all nonprofits, the organization is bigger than any one person, so it’s very important that we operate in the capacity of serving the organization and not any one person,” Melvin said. “The fact that Akeem has decided to move on, we respect that. Our obligations to our grants and our contracts do not suffer.”
Brown said he does not know where he will go next, though he plans to work in community development. He believes SAGE will be fine with the right leader in place. “I think I left everything in order,” he said.