The longtime executive director of a San Francisco nonprofit that offers medical and social services to sex workers announced this week that she’s stepping down from the position.
Naomi Akers said in an email distributed Thursday, September 12 to “community members, allies, supporters, and stakeholders” that she’s leaving the top post after seven years. However, she added that she’d join the board of directors of the “fabulous and one-of-a-kind clinic.”
Akers, who wasn’t available for comment Thursday afternoon, didn’t offer many specifics on why she was quitting, but she said, “It is not easy to leave, and yet it is time. It is time for new blood, new vision, and new leadership. I am so excited about the opportunities!”
She said she’d been with the clinic for 11 years and said, “I have learned and accomplished so much” during that time.
“I was blessed to meet and work with some of the most inspirational and passionate people,” said Akers. “I have forged wonderful friendships with so many of you who are amazing and tireless advocates on behalf of harm reduction, sex work, LGBTQQ rights, human rights and anti-oppression work locally and globally.”
Akers, who serves on the city’s entertainment commission, will head St. James until her replacement is hired and trained. She said that she hopes to be working with the new executive director “for quite some time” as a member of the board, “where I can continue my love of advocacy for sex workers around the world.”
The job announcement, which lists compensation at $60,000 to $70,000, says, “The PRIMARY function of the ED is fundraising and leadership. The ED is responsible for raising the money to keep our clinic happening, to make payroll (for the ED as well as other staff) so HUSTLE is a must!!”
IRS data for the 2010-11 fiscal year, the most recent information available, list Aikers’ compensation as $61,138, well below what leaders of many LGBT-related nonprofits in San Francisco make. The agency’s total expenses that year were $537,421.
Stephany Ashley, who served as programs director at St. James before becoming a legislative aide to Supervisor David Campos last year, said in an interview that she considers Akers “one of my mentors.”
“She embodied the peer-based spirit of the clinic,” said Ashley, who said that Akers started working with the agency as a community member and then became a volunteer before eventually working her way up to the nonprofit’s top position.
“She’s just one of the few people who really knows the community and knows the clinic inside and out,” said Ashley, who still volunteers with St. James. She added that Akers “has been a really fierce advocate for justice for the sex worker community.”
Ashley left Campos’s office after this year’s city budget was hammered out. She considered applying for the executive director job at St. James herself but decided against it because she’s considering going to graduate school for a creative writing degree, and the clinic needs someone “who’s really in it for the long haul,” and can stay for five to 10 years.