Step into Jeff Markley's office and one will see a very organized desk. Stacks of letters and papers are neatly sorted into piles. Four days ago Markley started as the new executive director of the AIDS Task Force, 525 Oxford St.
The job has been vacant since Lisa Terry left the organization in April. Staff member Kandace Kelly filled in until Markley was hired. Markley said he knows he has some pretty big shoes to fill after Jack Ryan, founder of the task force, followed by Greg Manifold, but he is looking forward to the challenge.
“I have volunteered for ATF for 25 years,” Markley said.
Markley said the scene is different than it was 25 or 30 years ago when Markley worked for the Allen County Health Department. Some of the basic information they were giving out then was "it's OK to swim in the same pool; it's OK to touch someone and drink out of the same glass."
“Those were some of the basic concerns back then,” Markley said.
Markley said he applied for the task force job after looking back at what he has done over the past years of his career and realizing he was really drawn to public service and being involved in the community. So when the job opened up he thought it was the perfect timing and applied. Past careers have helped him develop a lot of skills, which will help him in his new position.
Markley said he sees his role in his new position as one of building new contacts, relationships and partnerships in the community.
“It's no longer the crisis mode it was in the '80s, but a lot of our clients live at or below poverty level. So there still is this great need for the clients we serve.”
Markley said he wouldn't immediately change anything. He feels he has a lot to learn from the 17 people who work at ATF to see what has worked for them, and what doesn't and then build from there. Currently they have a client base of around 350.
Markley was the first HIV/AIDS program coordinator for the health department from 1990 through 1994 and was a disease intervention specialist two years before that. He earned his bachelor of science degree in public affairs at Indiana University in Bloomington, and his masters in public management from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. He was awarded the Outstanding Graduate Student of the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs at the Fort Wayne campus in 1993.
Markley was a founding member of the Gay and Lesbian Dinner Dance Benefit for the AIDS Task Force. He has served on the board of the IPFW Center for Social Research and the personnel board of Plymouth Congregational Church. His other volunteer work has included the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo and humanitarian efforts in Uganda.
Saturday night at the Grand Wayne Center will be the 25th annual Gay and Lesbian Dinner Dance Benefit for the AIDS Task Force. The dinner is sold out. However, those wishing to attend the dance and silent auction can still buy tickets ahead of time for $10 or for $15 at the door.
It is tradition that the mayor of Fort Wayne attends the dinner, and this year because it is the 25th anniversary, mayors past and present, minus Graham Richard, who lives out of state, will be there.
The AIDS Task Force is the oldest AIDS service organization in Indiana. It serves 11 counties in northeast Indiana. The task force provides care coordination services for 400 clients annually and prevention education and/HIV testing to 8,000 per year.