For the past two years Melissa Reed has tackled domestic violence as legal services director and prevention team leader with the Council on Domestic Abuse.
Soon, she will turn her attention to the broader community as director of the Terre Haute Human Relations Commission.
“When I saw this position … and they were talking about valuing diversity and promoting harmony, to me that sounds like preventing discrimination,” Reed said. “If I’m going to prevent discrimination, I’m going to prevent violence in this community.”
The commission Wednesday approved Reed’s hiring at a salary of $45,000.
She will begin her duties Jan. 2, succeeding Jeff Lorick, who resigned in June to serve as Equal Employment Opportunity Commission outreach officer in Pinellas County, Florida.
Lorick held the job for 10 years and was widely praised for his work. Reed recognizes she has some big shoes to fill but said, “I’m up for the challenge and I want … to touch on a lot of things to prevent discrimination.”
Prior to her work with CODA, Reed served as educational and health assistant with the Vigo County School Corp. and worked at Gibault Chilldren’s Services. She has completed a bachelor’s degree in human services from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College with a minor in sociology. She was born in Terre Haute but spent most of her formative years in Minnesota before returning to her hometown as a teenager in 1988.
Reed was selected for human relations director from among four candidates interviewed for the position out of 16 applicants, said Linda Lambert, commission president. Lambert has also served as interim director since Lorick’s departure.
“Melissa had the best resume as far as her experience in the area of helping others (and) being involved with different agencies,” Lambert said. “Most importantly, she has such a passion to expand human relations in Terre Haute and has ideas for different programs.”
The Human Relations Commission is part of the Indiana Civil Rights Commission and commissioners want to make the office more visible in the community, Lambert said.
Lambert heard Reed address MBA students at Indiana State University about stopping discrimination and called her a “dynamic” speaker and an “excellent choice” for director.
Reed said it is important to address all areas of discrimination, including sexual orientation, religious views, political views, gender identity, race, abilities or disabilities and socio-economic status.
She acknowledges challenges that come with her new position.
“When you start talking about the reasons for discrimination, you have to get into quality and equity and privileges,” she said. “Sometimes … when we are talking about things like fair housing, fair job opportunities and affirmative action, it may seem like oppression to those that are experiencing the privileges. I think there are going to be challenges. I look forward to them.”
Reed wants to reach our more to youth, saying, “We hear all too many times that we’re not born discriminating against others, that it is something that is taught.”
Dave Taylor can be reached at 812-231-4299 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TribStarDave.