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Florida Conference fills key leadership positions

Florida Conference fills key leadership positions

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Florida Conference fills key leadership positions

Dec. 20, 2006    News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0590}

NOTE: Headshots of Alsgaard, Thomas and Gonzalez are available at

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

LAKELAND — They were definitely worth the wait.

That’s the word from Florida Conference leaders who have ended the arduous process of searching for qualified individuals to fill key positions within the ministry of the Florida Conference.

Three new staff members have been added to the conference’s rank. Two of the positions have been vacant for quite some time, and one position was recently created.

Communications position filled

The Rev. Erik Alsgaard
The Rev. Erik Alsgaard began serving Dec. 1 as director of communications, a position that became available in February 2005.

Alsgaard received his Master of Divinity from United Theological Seminary and his Bachelor of Science in communications from Central Michigan University. He became an ordained deacon in The United Methodist Church in 1986 and an elder in 1988.

Prior to accepting the conference communications position Alsgaard served for four years as director of communications for the Baltimore-Washington Conference and managing editor of the United Methodist Connection newspaper. He is also a past editor of Newscope and spent several years as the assistant general secretary of communications at the General Board of Church and Society. Alsgaard has been the president of United Methodist Association of Communicators since 2004.

The Rev. Dr. Anne Burkholder, the conference’s director of Connectional Ministries, says she is pleased to have Alsgaard on board.

“Our search took a long time, but demonstrated that we are deeply committed to, in the words of Jim Collins, author of the book ‘Good to Great,’ getting the right people in the right seat on the Florida Conference bus,” she said. 

“Erik brings great breadth and depth of knowledge about conference and general church communications, and I look forward to the great strides we will be able to make in improving our communications systems under his new leadership,” Burkholder added.

Burkholder also had words of praise for Tita Parham, managing editor of e-Review, for her assistance while the search for the director of communications took its course.

“I am also extremely grateful for the interim leadership Tita Parham has provided to us during this long process,” Burkholder said. “Tita has been tremendous to work with and provided patient, clear leadership to us during this time.”

Department for Ministry Protection gains new director

Mark Thomas

The Florida Conference’s Department for Ministry Protection, formerly risk management, is pleased to announce Mark B. Thomas has been hired as its new director, effective Dec. 1.

A life-long United Methodist, Thomas has more than 14 years of service in the risk management and insurance claims administration industry. He was most recently employed as the assistant claims/risk manager with the Roman Catholic Church of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, a position he held since 2004.

Roger Bond, chairman of the Ministry Protection team, said Thomas is the right person for the position.

“We’re hoping Mark will bring a fresh approach to our program,” he said. “He has a lot of experience coming from New Orleans and its recent aftermath of responding to Hurricane Katrina.”

Mickey Wilson, the conference’s treasurer and director of administrative services, said Thomas’ first-hand knowledge of natural disasters, coupled with his extensive risk management background, made him an excellent candidate for the position.

“We are very fortunate to find him,” Wilson said. “Mark’s experience is going to be vital as we change focus from risk management to ministry protection.”

Wilson also expressed appreciation for Marilyn Swanson’s work. Swanson had been serving as interim director of risk management, in addition to her duties as director of the Florida Conference Storm Recovery Center and coordinator of the conference’s annual meeting.

“She has been such a rock,” Wilson said. “I can’t thank Marilyn enough for all she’s done in wearing multiple hats. She will always be a part of the Ministry Protection team.”

Thomas received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Southeastern Louisiana University. His position in Louisiana provided him with extensive insight into the insurance claims arena.
The Archdiocese of New Orleans has insured property valued at $1.4 billion dollars and its covered locations include 142 church parishes, nine missions, five seminaries, 72 elementary schools, 10 high schools, two nursing homes, more than 8,000 employees and 10,000 students. Thomas’ total area of responsibility included approximately 80 percent of the Catholic facilities in Louisiana.

Bond said Thomas’ experience in dealing with the effects of a major storm, handling claims and working with case management made him the appropriate choice for the position. “We are excited about having Mark join the conference.”

Position focusing on developing Hispanic churches created, filled

The Rev. Samuel Gonzalez

The Rev. Samuel Gonzalez will assume his duties as director of Hispanic New Church Development Jan. 1.

Gonzalez received a master’s degree in theology and divinity in Cuba. He was ordained a deacon and elder in the Methodist Church of Cuba and is a member of the Florida Conference. He began a Hispanic church in Fort Lauderdale, served as evangelism director of the Florida Conference Hispanic Assembly and developed training resources for Hispanic churches in the areas of evangelism, discipleship and membership.

While in Cuba Gonzalez worked as chaplain for the Methodist High School in Cuba, developed a Christian ethics curriculum for high school students and taught “Introduction to the New Testament” at Matanzas Theological Seminary as an adjunct professor. Gonzalez also served simultaneously as superintendent of three districts and executive secretary of evangelism of the Methodist Church of Cuba and began four new missions that later became charter churches.

The Rev. Mont Duncan, director of the conference’s New Church Development office, said Gonzalez will function differently than the past director of the conference’s Hispanic ministries, which came under the Connectional Ministries office. Gonzalez will instead work in the area of new church development. Duncan said Gonzalez’s primary focus will be starting part- and full-time Hispanic churches and missions.

“By the year 2050 the majority of Florida’s population will be Hispanic speaking,” Duncan said. “We want to get ahead of the curve. We don’t want to wait until it’s too late.”

The New Church Development committee and the Florida Conference Cabinet have been prayerfully searching for the right candidate for the position for about a year and a half, Duncan said.

“We wanted someone who had experience starting churches; he’s started six,” he said. “He’s excited, and we’re excited about moving forward for the Kingdom.”


This article relates to Florida Conference Staff.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.