First reported 08/10/10 1:30 P.M.

After five years at the helm of Bethel New Life, Steven McCullough, the nonprofit organizationfs CEO since 2005, has resigned, according to an announcement Tuesday by Bethel.

His resignation takes effect next Wednesday Aug. 18. McCullough leaves to become chief operating officer of The Safer Foundation, a West Side, nonprofit organization that provides services and advocacy for individuals with criminal records. Bethelfs Board of Directors will search for his successor. In the meantime, Bethelfs chief operating officer and chief financial officer will both oversee the organization until a permanent CEO is found.

“Steven is leaving us with some pretty big shoes to fill,” said Nat Piggee, Bethelfs board chair via a statement Tuesday, “but we are fortunate to have an exceptional staff, a strong board and lots of support, so I am confident that this will be a smooth transition and that we will build on Stevenfs work and continue improving how we serve the community.”

McCullough was appointed CEO in July 2005 but has worked at Bethel for 10 years. He succeeded founder Mary Nelson, who stepped down as CEO that year. Bethel is celebrating its 30th year, but has had to cut 100 staff positions due to the economic downturn, a move thatfs caused consternation among some in the community. McCullough, however, insists that the faith-based organization remains committed to serving the community.

“I think the future looks really good for Bethel because wefre looking to explore some additional opportunities for our programs and strengthen leadership in the community,” McCullough said in a recently published interview in Austin Weekly News.

Concerning his departure, McCullough said via Tuesdayfs statement: “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work at Bethel for the past 10 years and serve as its leader for the past five. I want to thank the board for giving me the chance to lead an extraordinary team of people dedicated to serving the community where I was born and raised.”

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

After about six months on the job as Bethel CEO, Austin Weekly News interviewed McCullough in February 2006 about his plans for the organization.

AWN: What made you want to work with Bethel New Life?

McCullough: Well, I grew up on the West Side of Chicago and still have many friends and family that reside in the communities of Austin and Garfield Park. Right now, my wife, daughter and I live on the South Side but we are moving back to the West Side soon. I have a great deal of love for this community and that motivates me to do what I can to make it better.

AWN: What do you think are the primary differences between the way you manage and the way Mary [Nelson] managed?

McCullough: I think we work at different paces. Mary was good at multi-tasking, so oftentimes she would be working at a frenetic pace. Shefd go from meeting to meeting without seeming to catch a breath, and it worked well for her. However, I work at a much slower pace. That is how I work best. Ifm of the mind that smaller consistent steps can be just as effective as longer broad steps.

AWN: What do you want to accomplish as CEO of Bethel that you feel was lacking before you arrived?

McCullough: I feel that wefve been like an 800-pound gorilla in the way wefve chosen to handle our relationships with other community organizations such as the Austin Chamber of Commerce and The Westside Federation. I want us to build more relationships within the community and not look at ourselves as on an island. We all want the same goal of building this community socially and economically, allowing it to thrive.

AWN: Whatfs next for Bethel?

McCullough: Well, we are continuing our construction of Douglas Villa Condominiums at the intersection of Washington and Kostner. Already, 16 out of 24 units have been sold to date. We are also partnering with Keystone Baptist Church to develop seven single-family homes, all of which are sold. The homes have solar roofs and have been purchased by residents of the community. Additionally, we are in the midst of constructing a three-unit condominium building located near Hamlin and Maypole. This will be the first of approximately 22 structures to be built in the next few years.

AWN: How long do you feel you want to work as the CEO of Bethel?

McCullough: Ifm here for the long haul-20 years, Lord willing.

Interview conducted by Austin Weekly News freelance reporter Robert Felton