Even by political standards, the announcement was terse: “After 30 years of service, Jim Palmer has resigned as (OCRM) Orange County Rescue Mission’s president. Our current COO, Bryan Crain, will serve as interim president. Bryan has led Orange County Rescue Mission’s operations for nearly ten years, and we are confident that the organization will continue to flourish under his leadership.”
Neither Palmer nor the OCRM initially responded to media queries. Not to the OC Register, not to the LA Times, not to anybody. And Palmer’s official blog and the OCRM website are still mum on the subject. After three decades of service to the OCRM as President and CEO, Palmer’s sudden departure could only serve to fuel speculation. Life-threatening illness? A power struggle within the OCRM hierarchy? Sexual harassment charges? Or simple burnout? In the absence of any meaningful data, there were only guesses. And the OCRM Powers-That-Be know that people will continue to wonder and confabulate unless an explanation is forthcoming. It’s human nature, after all. And nature abhors a vacuum.
That speculation more or less ended when Jim Palmer spoke on Thursday, June 15, with reporter Ruben Vives of the Times, citing “health reasons” for his stepping down from leadership of the OCRM. Palmer’s feelings, as one might expect, are mixed: “It could never have been a better time to step aside because the Rescue Mission is in its best financial position,” Palmer said. “It has the best leadership that I’ve ever seen. I will drive by the campuses, and I’m certain my heart will drop a little bit.” This sounds right to me. Thirty-one years as head of Orange County’s leading mission to help the homeless is reason enough for stepping aside and letting others carry the load.
All indications are that the OCRM’s finances are stable, and its programs are continuing to help thousands of homeless men, women, and children. Hopefully, Bryan Crain will continue in Jim Palmer’s footsteps in overseeing Village of Hope, House of Hope, and all other OCRM facilities. Since Crain has filled in for his former boss before, he knows how big those shoes are.
This is a classic example of what can happen in the wake of a major institutional disruption. Unless said departure is immediately explained, as it was here, all kinds of rumors will fly through the air, disrupting rational discourse with gossip and hearsay. Thankfully, the OCRM and Mr. Palmer moved quickly to address this situation. But what if they hadn’t?
I have no doubt that Jim Palmer’s decades of yeoman service have left him emotionally and mentally drained. He’s more than earned his retirement. But why didn’t he say that right off the bat? Why not, as stated above, announce to all news media, local and national, that he was resigning after more than three decades of service to enjoy the rest of his life and spend more time with his family? Why leave even a scintilla of doubt?
It is because so many heads of corporations and institutions tend to leave under dark clouds, with talk of financial mismanagement, power plays, and harassment allegations, that we, the public, need leaders like Jim Palmer to come clean from the jump, without allowing any time for whisper campaigns to form.
Fortunately, this issue was addressed in a timely manner and will hopefully lead to a smooth transition with Bryan Crain as CEO of the Rescue Mission. It then becomes everyone’s job to hold him to task–not to expect that he will be Jim Palmer reincarnate, but that he will (pun intentional) continue the mission of aiding the homeless in Orange County. At the very least, we owe Mr. Crain the benefit of the doubt, if not a helping hand.
Full disclosure: I’m the same age as Jim Palmer (59). And while I haven’t spent 30-plus years caring for homeless people, I have spent 20 years caring for my partner, who has multiple sclerosis. So if Mr. Palmer wants to spend his remaining time on Earth puttering and playing with his grandkids, I say more power to him, and God bless him. Having said that, I will be keeping an eye on Mr. Crain and the OCRM, helping to keep them honest and on the mission. Like the old Russian saying goes, “Trust, but verify.”
Speaking of housing, I am moved to make another appeal on behalf of my friend Jennifyr Gilmore. She is a preacher’s kid whose parents founded Lincoln Avenue Baptist Church in Orange. She has multiple sclerosis with severe mobility issues. She is in dire need of ADA-compliant housing, either a so-called “tiny house” or apartment. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any leads or if you know of such a place for rent or purchase. Thanks and blessings.