St. Pete Pride and executive Director Part Ways 

St Pete Pride’s 2018 parade. Photo by Nick Cardello.

(WM) St Pete Pride confirmed Dec. 6 that Luke Blankenship will no longer serve as the organization’s executive director.

“Luke Blankenship is no longer employed by St Pete Pride,” St Pete Pride President Chrys Bundy shared with Watermark.  “We wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

Blankenship was named executive director of Florida’s largest LGBTQ Pride celebration in May 2018, making him the youngest executive director of any Pride organization in the country. He had previously served as interim executive director beginning in late 2017 and had worked in various roles in years prior, including logistics coordinator, parade director and development director.

“For 6 unbelievable years, I’ve been honored with the opportunity to impact thousands of LGBTQ+ people around the world,” Blankenship shared via social media Dec. 5. “Blessed with an amazing group of people to help build St Pete Pride to where it is today, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed feeding my passion while getting to live out a dream.”

Blankenship touted highlights during his time with the organization, including collaborating with more than 400 LGBTQ-friendly businesses, increasing sponsor funding by 143% in two years and more. He also thanked volunteers, vendors, coworkers, mentors and colleagues.

“My tenure at St Pete Pride is now over,” he wrote. “It’s been an incredible ride, to say the least … It goes without saying, my time at St Pete Pride was incredibly special.”

He also noted that while “I’m not entirely sure what’s on the horizon, this is far from farewell. Several next moves are in the works. Whatever my next steps are, know this: my energy and passion for LGBTQ+ advocacy will never wane.”

When asked if Blankenship resigned or was terminated from his position, Bundy advised “I’m unable to speak to that.” Blankenship also declined comment.

Blankenship’s last day with St Pete Pride was Nov. 20. An interim executive director has not been named and the organization’s executive committee will handle the role’s functions at this time.

“The board of directors is looking forward to a national search to recruit our next executive director who will take the organization and our mission to the next level,” Bundy says. “Our talented production board, dedicated volunteers and staff are hard at work preparing for what will be an amazing Pride season in 2020.”

St Pete Pride will next focus on the organization’s annual Red and Green Party, welcoming more than 500 guests to Sunken Gardens Dec. 7.  The celebration will feature a silent auction benefiting the St Pete Pride Community Grants program and more.