Brandie Wilson | CRA

Four months after stepping down as the executive director of the Humboldt Area Center for Harm Reduction (HACHR), Brandie Wilson has landed a new, similar gig in The Windy City. In an announcement on its website, The Chicago Recovery Alliance has announced that Wilson will be stepping into their executive director role. 

More from the Chicago Recovery Alliance below: 

We are very excited to announce that Brandie Wilson has accepted the Executive Director position at the Chicago Recovery Alliance (CRA)!

“As an invested volunteer at CRA for the last 11 years,” said CRA Board President Erica Ernst, “it was important to me to take on a leadership role last fall during a turbulent time. Supporting our leadership team over the last year, and investing heavily in recruitmenting and interviewing the candidates was both an honor and a privilege. Handing the Executive Director reigns over to Brandie Wilson at this moment in time marks the end of our collective uncertainty. Chicago Recovery Alliance is resilient, and Brandie reinforces that. Together, we continue to end the War on Drugs alongside our greater Harm Reduction community. Collectively, we love and support drug users and sex workers. Nothing about us without us!”

Brandie is the founding Director of the Humboldt Area Center for Harm Reduction (HACHR) in northern California. We became familiar with her because of the meteoric rise of that fierce organization despite challenging circumstances. She grew HACHR from a volunteer project to an organization with several full-time staff, varied funding sources, and numerous initiatives in just 5 years. She was even one of the New York Times’s 18 Most Memorable People of 2018! CRA got to know Brandie better when she joined the Capacity Building and Leadership Institute in Chicago in December 2018 to help support CRA’s Interim Leadership Team. When she came for an intensive interview in August, we got an intimate and in-depth look at her interpersonal style, her listening and mentoring skills, her creativity, and her fearless and unwavering commitment to the survival and well-being of people who use drugs, engage in sex work, and are harmed by racist drug policies. Upon accepting the offer, Brandie said, “I look forward to serving People Who Use Drugs in Illinois, getting to know new friends and family at CRA, and building a life in Chicago.”

When we lost Dan in August of 2018, it became clear that the CRA team knows how to take care of business – all services continued uninterrupted. To ensure the administrative and program development work continued, we developed an Interim Leadership Team headed by Greg Scott. Initially we expected that it would take us about six months to organize, file, coordinate, reconnect, transfer, unravel, and find everything necessary for CRA to keep running smoothly and promote Any Positive Change. But decoding Dan’s special brand of brilliance combined with seeing through considerable new programming was quite the task! In May, after nine months of reorganizing and marching forward, we decided that it was the right time to initiate the transition for a more permanent leadership structure.

In true CRA style, the ED Hiring Committee included participants, staff, board members, and volunteers. We were honored to receive numerous applications from amazing, talented, thoughtful, and capable people — thank you, community, for stepping up! Each of the four final candidate “interviews” spanned three days. The candidates engaged in multiple group interviews, consumer advisory board meetings, all-staff meals, one-on-one meetings, a presentation to staff and board members, joining in on outreach and drop-in center activities, and working alongside our dedicated volunteers. We did everything we could think of to examine the fit from all angles. It was a bona fide gauntlet!

From Greg Scott, Interim Executive Director:

The past year has been a crucible for CRA. While grieving the tragic loss of our inimitable and fearless leader, we knew we had to forge ahead and take care of business, just as he would have wanted. In a relatively short period of time, we have done some healing and a whole lot of growing. Backed and guided by a very strong and fiercely committed board of directors, we have solidified and strengthened our financial position, developed industry-standard operating and accounting systems, expanded and diversified our staff, and implemented several new lines of highly innovative programming. CRA continues to be the moral compass for folks who genuinely want to do right by people who use drugs — in Illinois and beyond. We are thrilled to welcome Brandie to the CRA crew and work alongside her as we continue realizing our eternal, unwavering commitment to the wellbeing, power, and liberation of people who use drugs and do sex work.

It is a daunting task to assume the Executive Director position that was held for over 25 years by Dan Bigg. His influence on CRA and Harm Reduction around the world is indelible and enduring. Let us also remember what a great mentor he was and how dedicated he was to always be pushing forward. We are delighted that Brandie will be at the helm of CRA, pushing for Any Positive Change in improving the health, well-being, dignity, and humanity of people who use drugs and trade sex.

Brandie’s comments:

“It is my deepest honor to join the CRA team, honoring the legacy of Dan Bigg while also working to build a vibrant future with this fearless group of change agents.The opportunity to learn and grow with this amazing team of dedicated Harm Reductionists is truly humbling and I take these next steps with respect and dedication.”

Brandie has started the process of packing up and moving to Chicago and is digging in to getting oriented to CRA. Her exact start date is not yet confirmed, but it will be shortly after the Drug Policy Alliance Reform Conference.