Less than two weeks after being named the new CEO of Southwest Michigan First, former state House Speaker Lee Chatfield announced his resignation Monday morning. Chatfield’s hiring was met with heavy criticism from local government officials, and various non-profit groups.
They cited Chatfield’s past statements opposing legal protection against discrimination for LGBTQ people. Chatfield posted his resignation letter on Twitter Monday saying he apologized for any hard feelings or stress that his hiring caused. He also said his thinking on civil rights for LGBTQ people had changed over time. Chatfield recently said he favors expanding Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act to protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Southwest Michigan First issued a statement saying that Chatfield’s resignation had been accepted, and they wished the best for him and his family. The economic development agency also said
“We welcome the conversations, challenging questions and opportunities to listen, learn and grow. What is abundantly clear is that our search process fell well below the standard expected by our board, our community partners, investors, donors and importantly, our Southwest Michigan First team.”
Southwest Michigan First says it is renewing its search for a new CEO. The agency also plans to create an executive level position for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
Ron Kitchens left Southwest Michigan First in January after 15 years as CEO to lead the Birmingham Business Alliance in Alabama.