New Gulf Coast CEO heads here from Oregon
Tia Gray is already in the process of purchasing a home in St. Petersburg and will begin her new job on July 15.
“I am thrilled to join such a fabulous team of professionals and I am looking forward to being a part of the incredible work we do with children, elders, disabled, refugees and their families in Florida,” Gray said.
To select the new president, the Gulf Coast board appointed a committee to conduct a nationwide search, narrowed dozens of candidates down to two who visited the agency in April, then voted unanimously to hire Gray.
“Ms. Gray closely mirrors the agency’s culture and brings a wealth of experience in serving children and others in need in our community,” said Barbara Sterensis, board chair.
Gray served as the CEO of Morrison Child and Family Services in Portland, OR, for the last seven years. At Morrison, Gray made it an organizational priority to increase transparency and to embrace accountability, GCJFCS officials said.
Gray said the size and scope of operations at Morrison is very similar to Gulf Coast and she said right away when she visited here, she felt at home and very comfortable with the challenges of the job. She said she was not job hunting, but when a recruitment firm contacted her Gray said she would only consider another social services agency if it was a Jewish organization.
“Gulf Coast has an incredibly sharp focused and dedicated leadership team. I follow in some pretty big footsteps. I am grateful to Ray Gadd [former CEO] for his focus and direction. I feel I am coming at the perfect time to continue the good work Gulf Coast is doing.”
Gray said she does not feel the agency needs any change in direction, but said one thing she hopes to do is be a bridge between the agency and the Jewish community. While the agency serves both Jewish clients and the general public, she said she hopes to make the Jewish community more aware of how relevant the organization is to them.
She was especially complimentary of Cindy Minetti, recently hired, as director of Jewish Family Services, which has programs specific to Jewish community needs in Pinellas and Pasco counties. “[She] is a little ball of Jewish energy. I loved meeting with her and I think we will do great things in the Jewish community together,” Gray said.
Jewish Family Services programs, which include emergency assistance to families, counseling and a kosher food pantry, is supported in part by the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties.
But with a $32 million annual budget, the agency’s overall mission is much broader. Gulf Coast serves about 25,000 clients and has more than 500 employees in 32 counties across the state. It offers a variety of social services, including mental health counseling, child protection, family support, assistance for the elderly and disabled and employment assistance.
Before joining Morrison in Oregon, Gray served as vice president and COO of the Jewish Family and Child Services in Phoenix,
AZ, from 1999 to 2005, and held another position there for several years prior to that. Gray also served as executive director of Ariel Clinical Services in Grand Junction, CO. She was responsible for the overall vision, budget, planning and execution of mental health, therapeutic foster care, family and direct service programming for the agency.
Gray began her career as a therapist, providing outpatient services to children and families in Wisconsin. She is a licensed clinical social worker who holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of Denver and a bachelor’s degree in social work from Colorado State University.
As for moving to Florida, Gray said she got used to the heat when living in Arizona, but noted that is a dry heat. After experiencing that, she said the humid heat of Florida is not a concern and is looking forward to moving here and sharing her home with her daughter, Erin Redifer, who is a social worker and a single mother of two, one with special medical needs.