FORT WAYNE — The city of Fort Wayne’s Metropolitan Human Relations Commission has elected new leaders of its seven-member governing board, naming longtime member and community activist Larry Wardlaw as chairman.
Wardlaw, 64, was appointed to the commission in 2002 and has seen the civil rights agency through peaceful times and those marked by drama. Metro investigates discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodation and education based on sex, race, religion, disability, ancestry, national origin or place of birth and sexual orientation.
“Metro has a unique history of challenges,” Wardlaw said. “But of late we’ve been on a good course, and we have a great commission.”
Quinton Ellis will serve as vice chairman, and Wardlaw said Ellis is “eminently more qualified” than he is. Ellis is an attorney who specializes in civil rights, personal injury and criminal defense law. He has been on the commission for two years and previously was the staff attorney for the agency. In the past, he has served on a variety of boards, including Shepherd’s House, One Church One Offender, Fort Wayne Dance Collective, MLK Montessori School and the Allen County Bar Association.
Wardlaw said jokingly that he got the chairman’s job only because he has been on the commission for a decade but had never had to do it. He is a 28-year veteran of the Asher Agency Inc., where he is senior vice president. He is a lifelong city resident and is active in a number of community organizations, including the YWCA, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Civic Theatre and Junior Achievement. He has taught public relations at IPFW, his alma mater.
A history of the agency at some times reads like a melodrama, with board members taking paid staff positions, former directors filing bias lawsuits against the organization, and critics saying Metro is unfair. In 1996, the Fort Wayne City Council shut down the agency altogether and started over.
Most recently, its executive director for seven years abruptly left the agency in 2011 with no explanation. He was replaced in March 2012 by Cathy Serrano, who had been Allen County government’s human resources director.
Wardlaw said Leslie Alford had done a wonderful job as chairwoman for several years but needed to step down because of the workload. The board will now elect officers annually.