A board member of a LGBTQ nonprofit in San Francisco will serve as the city’s new director of aging and disability.
Kelly Dearman, a director of Openhouse, will serve as executive director of the Department of Disability and Aging in San Francisco, Mayor London Breed announced on May 6. Dearman, which will launch May 24th, will succeed Shireen McSpadden, one of the city’s most senior bisexual leaders.
McSpadden left on May 1 after Breed recruited her to head the homelessness and supportive housing department. She had run DAS, as the city council is known, for the past five years and received praise for addressing the needs of the city’s growing LGBTQ senior population.
Dearman, 56, lives in the city’s Cole Valley neighborhood with her husband, two children, and parents and is currently the executive director of the San Francisco In Home Supportive Services Public Authority. The agency helps seniors and people with disabilities live independently and participate in their communities.
“My focus has been on improving the lives of people with disabilities and older adults, and I would like to thank Mayor Breed for the opportunity to serve the people of San Francisco in this new capacity,” said Dearman. “I look forward to leveraging my experience and deep roots in San Francisco and adding to all of the work that has already been done at DAS.”
Breed pointed to Dearman’s “longstanding commitment to the rights of the elderly and people with disabilities and her close ties to the community” why she felt “an excellent fit” to take over the leadership of DAS.
“As our population ages, the department’s efforts to ensure that older adults and people with disabilities can live healthy and dignified lives become increasingly important,” said Breed. “I look forward to working with Kelly as we continue San Francisco’s ongoing efforts to make it easier for all, and especially our most vulnerable community members, to live and thrive in our city.”
The mayor’s office has yet to state what Dearman’s salary will be at DAS. It is one of three divisions under the San Francisco Human Services Agency umbrella. In addition to funding and overseeing services for adults with disabilities and older adults, from nutrition programs to home care, DAS also focuses on the needs of veterans. It also manages the Dignity Fund, which provides guaranteed funding to help older adults and adults with disabilities age gracefully in their own homes and communities.
Ashley C. McCumber, a gay man who works closely with DAS as CEO of Meals on Wheels in San Francisco, told the Bay Area Reporter that Dearman will be “a true champion” for the seniors and adults with disabilities in San Francisco.
“Kelly Dearman is the right choice to lead DAS at this unprecedented time,” McCumber, currently out of the country, wrote in an email response. “She has been an executive in the Senior Citizens’ Network for many years and knows from day one what it takes to continue the department’s essential programs and how we can work with community partners as we overcome the pandemic.”
Former gay supervisor and now BART director Bevan Dufty, who served as the city’s homeless tsar under the late Mayor Ed Lee, has known Dearman and her family for a long time. Her father, John, a retired judge, ran a law firm with future lawmaker and Mayor Willie Brown in the 1960s.
“She has given the Home Care Agency great leadership and San Francisco has led the way in considering the health and psychological benefits for these critical caregivers,” said Dufty, who served on Brown mayor’s office.
Martha Knutzen, a lesbian who is president of the San Francisco Disability and Aging Services Commission, said the regulator is “delighted” to recommend Dearman as the next DAS director.
“We appreciate the skills and experience she brings to our department, particularly in relation to her work with carers, and look forward to her guidance as we advance the reopening and continue to care for our vulnerable populations.” explained Knutzen. “We know she will bring real compassion and energy into the incredibly important work of serving our seniors, our adults with disabilities, and our veterans.”
Dearman is President of the California Association of Public Authorities and a member of the San Francisco Long Term Care Coordinating Council. She is co-chair of the San Francisco Aging and Disability Task Force and was previously president of the San Francisco Human Services Commission.
Trent Rhorer, executive director of the city’s Human Services Agency, described Dearman as an “inspired choice” to lead DAS.
“With her deep commitment to the needy, I am confident that she will continue the legacy of DAS by advancing the interests of older adults, people with disabilities, veterans and their families,” said Rhorer.
Dearman graduated from UC Berkeley and earned a JD from UC Hastings College of the Law. She also has an MA in Public Policy from Rutgers University. At the small law firm she ran for a decade, Dearman specialized in senior issues and probate law. She was involved in running HSM Realty, Finance, Management, the Lower Haight real estate company founded more than 50 years ago by her grandmother and now overseen by her sister, Tracy Dearman.
In 2008, Dearman co-founded SF Urban CHC, a nonprofit that is the first to provide low-income education and financial literacy to San Francisco residents. In addition to serving on the board of directors of Openhouse, Dearman is a board member of the Delancey Street Foundation and Goodwill San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin.
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