Published: 11:13 a.m. ET Aug. 11, 2015 Updated: 11:36 p.m. ET Aug. 11, 2015″
The Louisville Urban League announced Tuesday it has selected Sadiqa Reynolds as the first woman president and CEO in the local branch’s history.
A former Jefferson District judge, Reynolds is currently Mayor Greg Fischer’s chief of community building, which oversees a number of metro departments, including animal services, public health and parks. She has served in that role since 2011.
“It’s great to get a job doing what you’d die to do,” she told The Courier-Journal in an interview Tuesday. “It’s my life’s work.”
In a statement, Fischer praised Reynolds’ service to his team, including helping to launch the city’s Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods department aimed at combating violence.
Before working in the mayor’s office, Reynolds served as the first African-American woman to clerk for the Kentucky Supreme Court. She also worked as the inspector general for the state’s health and family services cabinet.
“While I am sad to lose her, I am thrilled that the Urban League is gaining an incredible leader to help advance their important mission, and I look forward to working with her in her new role,” Fischer said.
Area leaders also praised the selection, given Reynolds’ background in the legal profession and her knowledge of housing and other urban issues. Others said the selection of a black woman to the position is a long overdue milestone in the city.
“It’s not only historic but it’s very, very meaningful,” said former state Rep. Eleanor Jordan, who also is head of the Kentucky Commission on Women. “In that position she will come into contact with many folks in the corporate and business world who need to see that image of an African-American woman leader.”
Jordan said she is worried that a younger generation of black women living in the city are being shut out of leadership positions. There are currently no African-American women in the state legislature, for instance.
Councilwoman Jessica Green, who is an attorney, said Reynolds has been a mentor to younger women of color and that the Urban League’s decision is a positive sign for her and others. “I’m all about girl power,” Green said. “And it shows and indicates Louisville is ready for women, for women of color to leader. Sadiqa has been at the forefront and a professional mentor to many of us.”
The National Urban League was founded in 1910 to empower African-American social equality through education, economic self-reliance and workforce development. The Louisville branch started in 1921 as an organization to help rural black Southerners who had moved to the city after World War I, and today it focuses on the racial wage gap, housing assistance and other employment services.
State Rep. Reginald Meeks said he is looking forward to working with Reynolds in addressing economic issues in the community while attracting new members. In it 2015 State of Black America report, the National Urban League found, for instance, the annual median household income for blacks in Louisville was 52 percent of what their white counterparts.
“This is a changing economic environment, and she is going to have to modify the organization so that it can respond quickly to those needs and realities we face in the Commonwealth,” Meeks said. “Like many organizations (Urban League) is not as nimble as it needs to be. So that’s going to be a real challenge for her.”
Reynolds, who will begin in her new position on Oct. 1, is replacing longtime Urban League President Ben Richmond, who announced his retirement earlier this year. Richmond has been the group’s president since 1987.
Contact reporter Phillip M. Bailey at (502) 582-4475. Follow him on Twitter at @phillipmbailey.
Position: President and CEO of Louisville Urban League.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Louisville; law degree from the University of Kentucky.
Career: Clerk for the Kentucky Supreme Court; inspector general for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services; assistant director of the Division of Public Works and Assets with Louisville Metro Government; chief of staff of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness; Reynolds was appointed District Judge for the 30th Judicial Court