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CASA leader Linda Osmundson to retire at the end of June

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Longtime executive director of CASA, Linda Osmundson, will retire at the end of this month. In a statement released earlier this month by CASA, they wrote her last day will be June 30.

Osmundson is retiring after 26 years leading the organization.

CASA works to provide services and shelter for women and children who are victims of domestic violence. It stands for “Community Action Stops Abuse.”

Osmundson is, herself, a domestic violence survivor. Her experience led her to a 40-year career of activism against domestic violence. Prior to heading CASA in St. Pete, Osmundson headed programs in Gainesville and West Palm Beach.

Under her tenure, the program grew from a staff of just seven working out of a small home to a 100-bed facility that will open later this month. The program has a downtown outreach center, provides transitional housing and has 80 employees.

“Linda has been a champion for domestic violence victims in our community for decades,” said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. “Her work has saved lives and ensured that domestic violence victims and their children have a safe place to stay and get the services they need to get them out of abusive environments. Linda is a hero to many for her tireless efforts on behalf of these vulnerable victims.”

Under Osmundson the organization started a first-of-its-kind substance abuse treatment program for victims. It grew further still in 1996 with the opening of a supervised visitation center and in 1997 with a 14-unit transitional housing facility.

“She’s been an amazing mentor and leader to so many other leaders in this community,” states Nick McDevitt, CASA’s board president. “I am so grateful that I have been able to serve with her and learn from her. She leaves behind one of the greatest gifts this community has, a safe place for survivors and their children.”

Osmundson also ushered in the Peacemakers Program for children in preschool through Middle School. The program aims to teach children alternatives to violence.

She also co-founded a program to get pardons for women who were victims of domestic violence and sent to prison for defending themselves. Her work on that statewide effort earned her the governor’s “Peace at Home” award.

Osmundson’s work has spread to other countries, including Columbia, Russia, China, India, Japan, Austrailia and others.

Osmundson’s last day correlates with the opening of CASA’s new shelter.

“With the opening of our new shelter, I have such a proud legacy to leave behind,” Osmundson said. “I cannot imagine a day I will feel more accomplished than the day our first family moves in. I look at this organization and all it has accomplished and I feel joy, and a sense of peace knowing all it will continue to bring to this community for decades to come.”

CASA assistant executive director, Shandra Riffey, will take the helm as acting executive director on July 1.

In the meantime, Osmundson took to Facebook Tuesday to talk about the news.

“It is a bittersweet announcement for a job I’ve been grateful to do for all these years,” she wrote. “What happens next? Who knows?”

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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