Carla Smith, a celebrated advocate who has spent years advocating for underrepresented groups, is ready to serve as the first Black CEO of the New York LGBT Community Center.

It’s a full circle moment for Smith, who used the services at the center in her younger days. The longtime New York resident said going back to the center is like coming home.

“I know what the center offered me,” she said in an interview with the Advocate.

Smith will replace Glennda Testone, who plans to leave her position at the LGBT Center at the end of 2023. Testone, who worked as executive director since 2009, was the first woman to hold that position at the center. Smith, who identifies as a cisgender lesbian, will become the second woman to be in that role when she officially takes over on Feb. 12, 2024.

Smith currently works as deputy CEO at the Urban Resource Institute, which aims to combat domestic violence. Additionally, Smith has worked at other social service organizations such as the New York City Anti-Violence Project, My Sisters’ Place and Housing Works.

At the New York LGBT Community Center, Smith will work with her team to continue providing health care resources, substance use treatment, career support, youth guidance and other services.

“I’m ecstatic,” Smith said about her new job. “I can’t wait to get started.”

Smith was one of 200 people who applied for the executive director position. She earned the job after going through five group interviews, as well as three individual meetings with board members. Smith also met with staff and other leaders at the center.

“I feel privileged to have the opportunity … to have been selected through a very intense process,” she said.

Smith, who also works as an adjunct professor at St. John Fisher University, has earned a doctorate in education with a focus on executive leadership. The highly-touted advocate has been together with her partner, Jackie, for 11 years. The couple share five children and a grandchild.