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    Brett Andrews Exemplifies Compassionate Leadership

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    Brett Andrews is in his thirteenth year as Executive Director of Positive Resource Center (PRC), but his charismatic youthful charm and sharp intellect have not waned a bit, helping to explain the long-standing success of the non-profit. It remains the only place in San Francisco for people living with or at risk for HIV/AIDS to get comprehensive benefits counseling and employment services.

    Prior to his work at PRC, Andrews was the Executive Director of Los Angeles-based Team Mentoring, Inc., during which time he strengthened mentoring of middle school students from underserved areas. We marvel at how many people he has helped over the years, seeming to always fill needed voids within communities. We are honored to highlight his work for Black History Month, and had a great time connecting with him recently. He told us to ask anything, and we found him to be incredibly honest, candid, and with a smile and personality that could light up any room.

    San Francisco Bay Times: One of the great joys of publishing an LGBT-focused newspaper is having an opportunity to meet interesting, compelling, and sometimes even provocative people. First, we want to hear a little about your background. Are you ready?

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    Brett Andrews: I’m ready. Be gentle!

    San Francisco Bay Times:  Are you originally from the Bay Area? 

    Brett Andrews: I was born in Niagara Falls, New York, but I was raised in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

    San Francisco Bay Times: What was your first job?

    Brett Andrews: My first job was as the friendly neighborhood paperboy. I have fond memories of delivering newspapers on my Huffy bicycle, with a wad of Bubblicious grape bubble gum in my mouth, talking (or singing) to myself, and barely able to say, “You’re welcome,” after their, “Thank you’s.”

    San Francisco Bay Times: What do you miss about your childhood?

    Brett Andrews: I think I was a very happy, imaginative and precocious child—sometimes to my mother’s dismay. My mother always said, “I love you, but your head is always in the clouds.” I later came to realize that was her sweet but disciplined way of saying that I was too optimistic about everything, and that things are not always as they seem. In retrospect, I realize that I did see the world through rose-colored glasses, and in many respects, still do. On balance, I think it has come to serve me well.

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    San Francisco Bay Times: Where did you attend college? 

    Brett Andrews: Pennsylvania State University (Go Lions!) and George Washington University.

    San Francisco Bay Times: When did you experience your first serious romantic relationship?

    Brett Andrews: Funny you should ask. I was a junior/senior in college. His name was Rodney. He was, and still is, dreamy. I worked very hard to engineer that boyfriend outcome. First, I found a way to get him hired as a waiter in the same restaurant I was working, and when he had a housing issue, I got him to agree to live together. We were the exact same size and shared clothes and shoes—we had a blast!

    San Francisco Bay Times: Are you still friends?

    Brett Andrews: Absolutely. He lives in New York with his husband Rob and they have a doggy child named Jackson.

    San Francisco Bay Times: Okay, let’s take a turn. How did you get into nonprofit work?

    Brett Andrews: I was living in New York in the early 90s, and was quite displeased with my job. After work and on weekends, I volunteered for a non-profit named Kid’s N’ U, Inc, supported by Michael Kors. The Executive Director at the time was ready to move on, and Michael asked me to provide volunteer management leadership until they found a suitable replacement. I enjoyed the work so much, I went to him and his business partner John and asked if they would consider me for the Executive Director position. They said, “Our prayers are answered—yes.” I had no idea what I was getting myself into at the time. The rest is nonprofit history that is still being written.

    San Francisco Bay Times: What is the most rewarding and challenging thing about your current job?

    Brett Andrews: Often the challenge for me is seeing, first-hand, the depth and breadth of need in our community and the lack of adequate resources that are available to address the various needs. It can make me a bit blue, at times. Though, I’m never too far from that optimistic and imaginative kid, so it doesn’t take me too long to pivot and turn to solution-mode. Often it involves identifying the right resources, and making sure they get to the folks who need them the most—now that’s rewarding.

    San Francisco Bay Times: We love Positive Resource Center and the great work you all do over there. What’s new?

    Brett Andrews: This is such an exciting time for the agency’s programs. Over the past 5 years, the organization has experienced a 9% average rate of growth, expanding by 25% just this past year. For our Benefits Counseling Program, a great portion of the expansion is due to the Affordable Care Act roll out, and for our Employment Services Program, increased capacity comes from increased State fee rates and local community development funding from some of the new real estate development.

    I’m quickly reminded of your last question of challenges in the job. As you are well aware, the San Francisco economy is booming, and with that comes increased commercial rents that have impacted so many non-profits, and PRC was not immune. Over the past year, our rent increased by 25%. We have made occupancy a priority goal in our 2015–2017 Strategic Plan. In an effort to stabilize our current occupancy situation, we’ve hired consultants to assist us in a feasibility study that has helped us think about occupancy in the long-term, whether buying or long-term leasing.

    San Francisco Bay Times: The latest spurt of medical innovation and advancement in the world of HIV is the introduction PrEP as prevention. What are your thoughts about PrEP?

    Brett Andrews: For those of us who have been around a while, we have heard the “for and against” arguments before, and they are still happening—birth control and condoms being two clear examples. I believe when it comes to one’s health, and I would argue those are pretty high stakes, any prevention intervention that has the ability to lower one’s chances of contracting HIV is a good thing. And, not to cloud the issue with science and facts, but studies have shown 100% efficacy with daily adherence. It is hard to argue with science.

    San Francisco Bay Times: As if PRC doesn’t keep you busy enough, we see that you are also the Vice Chair of the SF Ethics Commission. Tell us a little more about your work on the Commission.

    Brett Andrews: The Commission’s work is very consequential to the underlying values and highest aspirations of San Francisco. Our charge is to practice and promote the highest standards of ethical behavior in government. The Commission possesses the unique authority to independently place legislation on the ballot. Our most recent success is the passing of Prop C—Expenditure Lobbyist legislation. Additionally, we just hired a new Executive Director, and with her leadership, we are looking to take a more proactive stance in the areas of audits, investigations and education.

    San Francisco Bay Times: As we Honor Black History Month, we are eager to get your thoughts on the current state of race relations in our nation.

    Brett Andrews:  First, I just want to acknowledge the many contributions African Americans have made to our country and the world. I am proud to share in that rich history and heritage. The state of race relations in our nation is complicated. This is such a multi-layered question, and it deserves way more thought than what I could offer at this time. That said, given our nation’s longstanding and complex history, I look at race relations from a macro and micro (personal) perspective. To fully discuss race relations from a macro view, one must also talk about class. Too often race discussions are hijacked by pre-conceived views of particular sets of people. If you think about race and class together as we seek to solve some of society’s most intransigent ills, you minimize what I call “othering,” which is unproductive, if not death to any good conversation that seeks to advance the betterment of humanity. On a micro or personal level, I often think of Voltaire’s Candide, who left home to travel the world in search of the meaning of life, only to come home and hear the answer from his mentor, “We must cultivate our own garden.” I seek to do just that. It’s very clear, we have come a long way, and one would assume with such a long journey that we are nearing the end, and that is simply not so. I remain hopeful and encouraged.

    San Francisco Bay Times: Okay, now we’re going to have a bit of fun. How about a few rapid-fire questions?

    Brett Andrews:  Sounds fun. Let’s go—I’m ready!

    San Francisco Bay Times: How old are you?

    Brett Andrews: Wow, right out of the gate with that one, huh?! I’m 51.

    San Francisco Bay Times: Single, dating or partnered?

    Brett Andrews: (smiling) Dating, and available!

    San Francisco Bay Times: Favorite time of day?

    Brett Andrews: Dusk

    San Francisco Bay Times: Favorite hobby?

    Brett Andrews: Cooking, particularly anything that requires way too many ingredients, and attending the symphony with my dear friend, Bobby.

    San Francisco Bay Times: Favorite gift to give?

    Brett Andrews: I would say my time, but my friends would say scented candles or kitchen utensils.

    San Francisco Bay Times: What could you read again and again?

    Brett Andrews: The Seven Spiritual Laws to Success and anything written by Langston Hughes.

    San Francisco Bay Times: What can’t you live without?

    Brett Andrews: Laughter and music.

    San Francisco Bay Times: Favorite quote?

    Brett Andrews: Maya Angelou: “I did the best for what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”

    San Francisco Bay Times: We’re just about out of time, but before we end, whom would you like to give a shout out to right now?

    Brett Andrews: My big sister Shelly, and my best friend of 30 years, Lisa.

    San Francisco Bay Times: Thank you so much for sharing with us your experiences, insights and even some of your predilections.

    Brett Andrews: The pleasure was truly mine; thank you. I look forward to seeing members of the San Francisco Bay Times team and your readers around town.