Image of Fred in a pink shirt and blue sweater

After more than 20 years, Executive Director Fred Swanson to leave his position

SEATTLE, WA (January 31, 2022) –  Gay City’s Board of Directors announced Executive Director Fred Swanson is stepping down from his position after more than two decades. Fred will remain involved with the organization until June 1, 2022, and Bekah Telew, Gay City’s Director of Development, will serve as Interim Co-Executive Director during the transition.

“I am so grateful for the friendship and partnerships that developed over two decades,” said Swanson. “We have such talented and creative staff and volunteers and a leadership team that understands what is necessary to continue to move Gay City forward. It’s hard to imagine not being there, and also liberating to know that the special place we have built together will continue to grow and thrive in new ways under new leadership.”

Under Fred’s leadership, Gay City’s programming and impact expanded significantly. This growth included assuming the programs of the Seattle Gay Clinic in 2004, continuing critical parts of Verbena’s work in 2008, and assuming the programs of the Seattle LGBT Community Center in 2009. Gay City created new office spaces to accommodate for the additional service offerings, launched Gay City Arts, created a Youth Advisory Council, implemented core equity trainings for staff, and offered a home to queer organizations Ingersoll Gender Center, Equal Rights Washington, and Three Dollar Bill Cinema.

“Gay City has benefitted tremendously from Fred’s leadership over his two decades as Executive Director,” said Ronn Arii, Gay City’s Board Co-Chair. “He has steered this organization through challenges, great successes, unprecedented growth, and has cemented Gay City’s position as a vital and integral part of the LGBTQ community in Seattle and beyond. He leaves us in a solid position to move forward with the evolution of Gay City: Seattle’s LGBTQ Center.” 

With the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the news that the building Gay City has called home since 2006 had been sold, Fred worked with the Board of Directors to find a new home for Gay City. A space and location that are responsive to the changing needs of LGBTQ people in Seattle and focuses on community members furthest from health equity.

Gay City’s Board of Directors and staff leadership will be working through a 90-day transition plan and have formed a Leadership Model Task Force. The Task Force will collaboratively explore the next iteration of Gay City’s leadership. Internal and external stakeholders will be consulted and the Task Force will solicit information from other nonprofit organizations that have implemented new and non-traditional leadership models. 

“Building a new leadership model aligns perfectly with our organization’s goals to always innovate, remain resilient, and respond to our community’s needs,” said Arii. “Our history of innovation coupled with our stable financial position and move to a new space present the right timing for a thoughtful exploration of a new and progressive leadership model.” 

The 90-day transition plan and the work of the Task Force will culminate with an announcement of the organization’s new leadership model, and Gay City will begin implementing next steps to bring this new model to fruition. 

“Gay City will always be part of my life, now and in the future,” said Swanson. “My primary focus over the past twenty years has been to build stability and sustainability,” said Swanson. “And we have done that. It is time to give this wonderful opportunity I have had to someone else. The new leadership will step into an organization that is financially strong and continues to build new ways to show up for and serve Seattle’s LGBTQ communities.” 


About Gay City: Seattle’s LGBTQ Center
With more than 25 years of supporting and advocating for LGBTQ communities, Gay City provides a place for you to be authentically yourself. Our mission is to cultivate access and connections to promote self-determination, liberation, and joy in our communities. We center health equity and are the leading HIV/STI testing provider in King County. For more information, visit and @GayCity on Instagram and Facebook and @GayCitySeattle on Twitter.