Lora Tucker is the new CEO of CenterLink, the national association of LGBT community centers. Tucker is new to South Florida, but not to leadership. She’s a retired United States Army colonel who led troops in Operation Desert Storm, jumped out of airplanes as part of the Airborne Corps, directed public affairs officers in the U.S. Army Reserve, and commanded a joint press camp at Guantanamo Bay.

“As a military officer, I changed roles every two or three years,” says Tucker. “I was dealing with a different team or a different mission. As part of my job, sometimes I was taking young Americans into dangerous places; I learned to lead a diverse population, with different cultures in extreme circumstances.”

Tucker earned the Bronze Star Medal and served 25 years as a soldier and officer for the U.S. Army. Those experiences helped prepare Tucker for the top roles that followed, including CEO for the Girl Scouts in Kentucky and southern Indiana. From there, Tucker attended the leadership program at Georgetown University and became a leadership coach. She is currently earning a doctorate degree in leadership from Spalding University. That’s in addition to her B.A. in social science from Boston College, a master’s in administration from Central Michigan University, and a master’s in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College.

“My passion is leadership and I enjoy helping organizations learn and become adaptive in today’s volatile, ambiguous and uncertain world in which we live, so that they don’t go the way of the dinosaur. Organizations today have to continue learning in order to thrive. The thing that I do really well is build and grow teams because I really enjoy the professional development aspect of being a CEO.”

Tucker has been in her new role since April and says it’s going very well. “I have fallen in love with this team and the area,” she tells SFGN. “I have had the opportunity to get out and travel and meet with some of our centers. All I can say is that my heart is full.”

CenterLink is home to nearly 200 national LGBT organizations, and every center has different needs. “Kalamazoo is different than Los Angeles,” says Tucker. “And Los Angeles is different than Dallas, which is different than New York City. Our challenge is to create a space where the leadership from within those organizations has the opportunity to network and learn from each other. As well as us really learning how to meet the needs of our centers whether small, medium or large.”

In the country’s current Trump era, Tucker describes the feeling among many of CenterLink’s member groups as “anxious.” “I think some of our constituents are still in a state of shock because we made such wonderful headway under the Obama administration,” Tucker explains. “So now, we have to circle the wagons. CenterLink is starting a new initiative called Center Action Network. Our role will be to help centers learn and advocate how to protect funding, especially government funding, because if we lose government funding our most vulnerable members are at risk due to the number of services provided at the grassroots level. We have to circle the wagons to make sure we are doing what we can do to mobilize and advocate to make sure we continue to progress rather than going backwards, which is a real possibility.”