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Humane Society of Northeast Georgia searching for new leader
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Interim Director Julie Edwards works at her desk at the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia. - photo by NAT GURLEY

The Humane Society of Northeast Georgia is undergoing a top leadership change during one of its busiest times of the year.

David Arias’ contract as executive director of the organization was not renewed in April after disagreement over the shelter’s direction, board Chairman Andy Kalinauskas said Tuesday.

Arias, who previously had worked with the American Red Cross for seven years and had his own consulting business in Alabama, couldn’t be reached for comment.

The private, nonprofit organization at 845 W. Ridge Road, Gainesville, has named Development and Marketing Director Julie Edwards as acting executive director, and has formed a search committee.

Kalinauskas said the Humane Society hopes to have a new leader in place by the start of the next fiscal year, or by July 1, but at least by the end of August.

“But we don’t want to rush into anything and have to go through this in another year,” he said. “So, we’re kind of taking our time.”

As for the organization’s future direction, “that’s what we’re working on right now,” Kalinauskas said.

When Arias was hired in March 2013, he filled large shoes in Rick Aiken, who had served for 24 years in the job.

Aiken had led a capital campaign for the shelter in 1998, taking the facility from a cinder block building to a modern shelter with all indoor kennels.

And he also transitioned the facility to one with selective admission that doesn’t euthanize animals based on space limitations or an animal’s length of stay. He also established a low-cost spay and neuter center.

Edwards, who has been with the organization since February 2010, wouldn’t say whether she is vying for the top post at the shelter.

She said that for now, though, she is benefiting from having an experienced staff.

“They do a great job on a day-to-day basis of keeping things running smoothly,” Edwards said. “It’s sort of business as usual ... in one of our busier seasons, and things have been going really well.”

Summer is one of the organization’s busiest times, “as people are out of school and on vacation,” she said.

The Humane Society sponsors weekend rabies and wellness clinics, and is planning for the Mutt Strut 5-K & 1-Mile Fun Run/Walk on June 14 at Lakeview Academy, 796 Lakeview Drive, Gainesville.

Each year, the organization holds “several fundraising events in support of the shelter’s mission and services,” according to its website. “These events help fund the 48 percent of our yearly budget (that) comes directly from donations.”

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