The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

October 4, 2012

Byrne leaving United Way, rejoining PreventionWorkz

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Sean Byrne, executive director of United Way of Enid and Northwest Oklahoma, has resigned his position, effective at the end of this year’s campaign.

Byrne, who has headed United Way since 2009, said he will become executive director of PreventionWorkz, an agency he formerly headed.

“I will stay through the current campaign and possibly part time or contractually beyond that. I want to ensure a smooth transition,” Byrne said.

He praised the United Way board of directors, calling members active and passionate. He said he has enjoyed working with them, but he missed the active engagement he had at PreventionWorkz.

He was offered the job at PreventionWorkz when former director Tammy Grantz resigned. Byrne became involved with nonprofit work after a friend of his was killed in a drunken driving accident, and he said he believes that is his true calling.

“I got involved because of the loss of a good friend to drunk driving. I’ve always been passionate and driven to see that no family, nor friends, have to go through that if possible,” Byrne said.

He left PreventionWorkz because he said he became frustrated with what he thought were limiting regulations that came with Department of Human Services and Substance Abuse Services grants that help fund PreventionWorkz. He married, moved to Oklahoma City and he worked for the University of Oklahoma.

Byrne said he grew tired of Oklahoma City and moved back to Enid, where he worked for Youth & Family Services of North Central Oklahoma until he was hired by the United Way in 2009. Now, he is returning to his roots.

“I missed getting my hands dirty in prevention,” Byrne said. “It’s an opportunity to do what I was called to do. It came down to where I was needed the most, and it is in prevention.”

He said United Way has done a lot in the 31⁄2 years he has been its director. The campaigns have raised more money than any time in the past, and the organization obtained a donated permanent headquarters.

Charity Tracker was introduced. It is a database system that will allow United Way to track people being served by local agencies, to prevent duplication of services and decrease abuse of the system. Another new program is Youth Diversity Speak Out. It is a group of youths who speak to local leaders about their experiences as members of diverse populations, speaking about what they consider important to them and their community and making suggestions for community improvement.

Byrne said he will start full time with PreventionWorkz in about a month.

Although he thinks some of the limiting DHS regulations have changed, he said he will deal with it, but the passion to make a change — to make a difference — still is strong.

The death of his friend had an impact on him, as did the death of four young kids coming home from a church camp, who were struck and killed by a drunken driver.

“PreventionWorkz has a great staff, and Tammy did a great job. I may bring some new ideas, new skill sets,” he said.

Byrne said he may try to introduce anti-bullying and suicide-prevention programs at the agency, which is dedicated to preventing alcohol and substance abuse. He said his experience with United Way may allow him to create new partners for PreventionWorkz.

United Way campaign chair Jessica Andrew said she was positive about the future of the organization and this year’s drive.

“Sean has gone above and beyond as executive director of United Way of Enid and Northwest Oklahoma,” she said. “He will continue to be active in the current campaign and during the transition period of hiring a new director. I have full confidence in our board and volunteers that they will continue United Way’s tradition of serving our community. Our campaign is off to a great start this year, and I know with the amazing community members and leaders that we have, we will finish strong.”

Kelvin Classen, president of the United Way Board, called Byrne’s leadership “exemplary.” He said United Way has a strong board and will continue to serve its member agencies during the transition.

“Sean’s leadership over the past four years has been exemplary. The United Way of Enid and Northwest Oklahoma has a strong board and will continue to serve its member agencies with dedication and compassion for service,” Classen said in a prepared statement.