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Newest SD Pride executive director resigns, Fernando Lopez poised to take over



San Diego Gay and Lesbian News has learned that the new executive director of San Diego Pride, Eric Heinritz (pictured left),  has resigned and current Director of Operations, Fernando Lopez Jr. will more than likely be the interim executive director, eventually taking over the role officially. 

There is no formal word as to why Heinritz is stepping down. 

His hiring came after the controversial dismissal of then Pride Executive Director Stephen Whitburn late in 2016. The community came out in force to attend board meetings at the time in support of Whitburn, demanding answers and asking for the resignation of some board members.

While some of those members did step down, it was the emeritus members who remained.

Talks back then pointed to either Lopez or CEO of The Greater San Diego Business Association Barbra Blake moving into the spot. 

Instead, after four months of reviewing over 65 resumes from applicants nationwide, Heinritz, a Wisconsin native, was selected last May. 

We talked to Co-Chair of the Pride Advisory Board Nicole Murray-Ramirez about Lopez becoming the new ED and he says that is his understanding. 

But, Murray-Ramirez said the role of the executive director should have gone to Lopez after Whitburn stepped down in the first place.

“The then-board refused and chose the nice young man who didn’t know anyone,” he says, “who was from back east and had never lived in our state. While he meant well, it’s sad to say he was like a fish out of water.”

Heinritz does have an excellent record of leading organizations. He was the first executive director at Milwaukee Pride helping that organization increase its revenue according to a statement.

He also administered a $2.1 million operating budget as an executive in various roles at Milwaukee World Festival, including Admission and Beverage Director. His team consisted of 950 employees.

Murray Ramirez says he’s not surprised at the resignation, “But I know that our community will be excited and happy with Fernando Lopez being made executive director.”

The outspoken activist and Mayor of Hillcrest says Pride should, “do away with so-called emeritus board members who are old dinosaurs like me, and who are known to control and greatly influence younger and new board members.”

“I urge the communities continue support of San Diego Pride, and I want to personally thank Mr. Heinritz for doing his best congratulate Fernando Lopez for finally being where he should be in the first place. And our community advisory board will be discussing the situation at the next meeting.”

We reached out to Fernando Lopez, but he is currently in Washington DC at Creating Change and unavailable for comment. 

There are no details at this time about how or when the change over will take place, but we will keep you updated as the story develops. 

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