Eric Skains, who has served as the executive director of St. Pete Pride for the past five years, is stepping down from his position.
Skains’ resignation is effective August 31.
The Houston native is moving back to his hometown to take a job in the corporate world, an opportunity he says he can’t turn down.
“It’s been a roller coaster of a journey,” Skains said Friday. “We’ve accomplished a lot and had a lot of great people come through the organization to put it there. It was definitely a team effort, I can definitely leave knowing that it’s in a much better place than it was when I first came here.”
St. Pete Pride has exploded in terms of popularity during Skains’ five-year run and is now considered one of the premier Pride events in the country. Revenue from sponsorships has more than doubled since 2013. Revenue from beverage sales, bleacher seats and merchandise has increased from $24,000 to almost $110,000.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing, however.
When Skains and his board announced plans, based on security concerns and the potential for further growth, to move the parade route from the Grand Central District into the downtown area, there was considerable pushback from Kenwood and Grand Central residents and businesses. Mayor Rick Kriseman‘s staff even threatened to withhold $45,000 in city funds used to defray security costs before a compromise was reached that had the parade relocate downtown, but with other festivities remaining in the Grand Central neighborhood.
Reflecting on the controversy, Skains said: “Given the situation that it was, I think it resulted in the best outcome.”
His colleagues say he will be missed.
“Pretty much everyone who has ever stepped into our city has an opinion on what should happen around our festival,” wrote St. Pete Pride board member Susan McGrath on her Facebook page. “Eric led with vision and insight that allowed us to grow and blossom beyond our best hopes. It’s not easy to work with an audience of thousands and to be the face of the hard decisions that are made by the team. I learned much from Eric and I will treasure each memory and each move forward he supported us in.”
“Change never comes easily or without a fight – as an institution, St. Pete Pride has grown and become solvent, thus allowing it to advocate for acceptance, inclusive policy and to be a beacon of hope and comfort to those anywhere who needed it,” said political consultant Nick Janovsky, who was Grand Marshall of the 2015 Pride festival.
Pride board members also applaud Skains for helping to create The St. Pete Pride Community Grants Program, which since 2014 has awarded an average of $10,000 per year to local organizations.
“We are grateful for the strong foundation he has built, the respect he has gained the organization, and the battles he has overcome for us,” said Scion Crowder, St. Pete Pride Board President.
“Eric Skains helped put St Pete on the map. He will be missed,” said Todd Richardson with Equality Florida.
St. Pete Pride officials say they will conduct a national search for a new executive director and will soon name an interim executive director prior to Skains’ departure.