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Eugene/Springfield NAACP parts with executive director and former president Eric Richardson

Eric Richardson was dismissed as executive director for the Eugene/Springfield NAACP on Nov. 30.
Melorie Begay
Eric Richardson was dismissed as executive director for the Eugene/Springfield NAACP on Nov. 30.

After serving with the Eugene/Springfield NAACP for nine years, Executive Director Eric Richardson was dismissed from his role Tuesday by its board.

Richardson - also a former president of the branch- says he’s baffled and feels a little disrespected by the abruptness of the board’s decision.

“There’s a lot of work that we’ve been doing that I’ve been feeling really good about and that in our meeting the board says they’re going to continue to do the work that they’ve been doing so I have to trust that, that is the case and so but definitely feeling disappointed,” he said.

Richardson said he’s thankful for the community's support and that as a lifelong member of the NAACP, he cares deeply about the organization and their work.

"The work of the NAACP is very closely tied to the outcome of the spirit of our nation...so I care about our nation, and outcome and spirit of our nation," he said,"doesn't matter if I'm with them or not, those things will continue."

He said during his time with the branch they worked on climate justice, community gardens, health equity, and getting more youth involved with the organization.

"These things are things that we should all care about as citizens, residents of the nation, and we should all just see how we can work through whatever organization fits you...hopefully we're going through growing pains, but we will grow into a better place," he said.

Eugene/Springfield NAACP board vice president Adam Wendt told the Eugene Weeklythe decision was made because Richardson didn't have enough experience to fill the role. Richardson has been the executive director for the past two years, initially serving in an interim position.

President Miles Pendleton said Richardson was nothing short of spectacular within the organization and adds the branch’s decision was based on reaching future goals, and wasn't done out of ill will. But he understands the public might find the decision surprising.

“We as an organization did absolutely everything we could in our power to make the best possible decision for the organization in our community at large. And we had every single best intent, we unearthed every single stone, and did the absolute best we could,” Pendleton said.

He adds the branch is in the process of finding an interim executive director while they continue to search for a replacement.

The branch released the following statement on Dec. 2:

Earlier this week, the Executive Committee for Eugene-Springfield’s NAACP Unit #1119 voted and unanimously agreed to an administrative restructuring of our branch operations. As a result of this decision, Eric Richardson no longer serves as the unit’s Executive Director, effective Tuesday, November 30, 2021. Our decision included an in-depth, comprehensive and holistic review of the current Executive Director position, its role and responsibilities, and the requisite skills necessary to facilitate greater transparency and accountability as we collaborate with our community partners on important initiatives that serve our rapidly expanding and diversifying community. This review spanned a period of several months, with ongoing conversations with the former Executive Director, and included review of the requisite skills and other criteria needed to effectively execute the position in the future.

The Executive Committee understands that this news has generated dialog and concern within our membership and community-at-large. Please know that decisions like this involve in-depth, ongoing review and discussion not only within the Executive Board, but also include input and feedback from our community partners and staff. Moreover, there have been alleged accusations that the Executive Committee's decision was racially biased. We wholly and emphatically deny this claim as it stands without merit or truth. The current members of this Executive Board have served for many years as professional peers with Eric and have personal, long-standing relationships with him and his family. Our current White executive board members ran unopposed over many terms, despite their constant petitioning and invitation for diverse community member participation in elections, and at all position levels of the branch. Their service in these roles is without financial gain or any other form of compensation. And their presence in these roles is because of their unwavering commitment to community, racial, and social justice across its membership. To imply otherwise is derogatory and hurtful to them, our organization and community, and is counter to the long-standing mission and values of the NAACP from its inception.

To be clear, we know that the lived experiences of minoritized populations create very real fears and distrust of organizational entities with racially homogeneous leadership. However, allyship across race, gender, sexual orientation and all other held identities is the bedrock of the NAACP's 112-year foundation, and is what distinguishes it as our nation's pre-eminent civil rights organization. We must challenge ourselves to always adhere to truth - a standard that these accusations fall far short of.

Furthermore, this decision was not made abruptly, nor without extensive conversations and input. While Mr. Richardson's departure is sudden, the executive committee weighed this approach against all other options, and believe it to be the measure that will best position the organization's success moving forward. We cannot, nor will we comment on internal personnel discussions or decisions that impact our employees or contracted workers. Instead, we take a very deliberate, conscientious, and holistic view of what is required to execute on our commitment and responsibilities to our community partners, our branch members, and the needs of our community at large.

In this regard, we ask those in the community with questions or concerns, to please share them with our Branch President, Miles Pendleton (Email: miles@naacplanecounty.org), as the unit is committed to supporting our community throughout this period of transition. As with any organization, public or private, change is inevitable, especially when faced with unanticipated challenges like a public health pandemic, where flexibility and agility to respond to community needs is pressing.

Clearly stated, our Eugene-Springfield Branch's focus is to ensure that we do not waiver from our mission, nor its corresponding work in the service of our community. We will continue to execute on our outstanding obligations and commitments, and we will remain steadfast in our pursuit of equity and justice for those historically marginalized and underserved. Towards this aim, we ask that those individuals and entities who have been in contact with the organization surrounding upcoming events, initiatives, and other ongoing collaboration, to please reach out to Miles Pendleton so that we continue our engagement and work together with minimal disruption. Together, we will move forward for community, by community and with community.

In solidarity,

Eugene-Springfield Unit #1119 Executive Committee

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