Women’s Shelter Program of SLO County hires new executive director

Kirsten Rambo, who was recently hired as executive director of the Women’s Shelter Program of San Luis Obispo County.
Kirsten Rambo, who was recently hired as executive director of the Women’s Shelter Program of San Luis Obispo County.

The Women’s Shelter Program of San Luis Obispo County has hired a new executive director after its longtime former head suddenly resigned in June.

Kirsten Rambo, formerly of the Division of Violence Prevention at the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention in Atlanta, will assume her new position on Dec. 12. Adrienne Harris was contracted to serve as interim director after Marianne Kennedy’s departure, according to Robin Mitchell Hee, president of the shelter’s board of directors.

The shelter was founded in 1977 and operates on an annual budget of about $2 million a year. Its 30 employees provide services that include an emergency shelter, a 24-hour crisis hotline, counseling, legal support, relocation and transitional housing.

Kennedy and Deputy Director Jason Reed resigned during a third-party investigation into undisclosed employee concerns about work conditions. The nature of the concerns remains unclear, although Reed told The Tribune in June the organization’s board of directors had “created a climate of chaos and distrust within the organization.”

Mitchell Hee said the shelter isn’t planning to hire a new deputy director, a position primarily devoted to grant writing. Instead, Rambo and other staff members will assume those duties.

As for any problems the shelter may have faced at the time of Kennedy’s resignation, Mitchell Hee said the organization has since moved on.

“There’s no issues to fix,” she said. “That part is way behind us.”

After Kennedy’s departure, the board of directors began to hold frequent meetings with staff members in order to address any concerns and listen to new ideas employees might have, Mitchell Hee said.

“We just gave them all the support they need,” she said.

Rambo said she’s excited to start her new job, and said her first priority will be “taking a look at what we have and building on that.”

“The Women’s Shelter has a history of providing really vital services,” Rambo said.

In addition to continuing the shelter’s client care, Rambo said she’d like to see the organization take a broader look at intimate partner violence prevention and potentially create programming around that issue.

Rambo, too, said she thinks the shelter is headed in a positive direction.

“We’re just really, really focused on moving forward,” she said. “It’s a really exciting time for the Women’s Shelter Program.”