FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Michael Aldridge, the longest-serving executive director in the ACLU of Kentucky’s history, is ending his tenure with the organization this month.
Aldridge took the helm of the organization in 2008, leading a staff of three and overseeing a modest budget. Fourteen years later, the organization has grown to a staff of 21 with a substantially increased budget and reach throughout the state. In 2017, Aldridge was inducted into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame.
“I am incredibly proud of the work the ACLU of Kentucky has accomplished over the last 14 years, and I’m excited to see what the future holds for the organization,” said Aldridge. “The organization is in the good hands of capable staff members and our experienced board of directors, with strong support from the national organization.”
In 2008, the ACLU-KY primarily focused on legal work led by a volunteer general counsel and a staff attorney. Legislative work was limited to fending off bills that would undermine civil rights and liberties, primarily in the area of reproductive freedom but with occasional First Amendment issues. Six months after becoming executive director, Aldridge hired a new director for the Reproductive Freedom Project and a program associate to work on other priority issues.
The staff remained small for several years until Aldridge created a communications department and expanded the advocacy team to include policy strategists and campaign organizers.
Aldridge led the work related to LGBTQ equality. He co-founded the Fairness Coalition in partnership with the Fairness Campaign and other community partners in 2009. The coalition exists to create shared strategies and goals around LGBTQ equality across the state and has amassed several wins since its founding, including fairness ordinances in twenty-three cities and towns, domestic partner benefits in all public universities, and non-discrimination policies in the commonwealth’s two largest public school districts.
“Most will never know all Michael has done for our movement,” said Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign. “I still don’t know of all his contributions from before we met. But I do know, when I was hired at the Fairness Campaign, it was Michael in the car with me most, traveling thousands of miles throughout the commonwealth to pass LGBTQ Fairness Ordinances and build momentum for statewide protections. His guidance got me through more than I can say and helped build the foundation of today’s work on LGBTQ equality.”
Over the years, ACLU-KY expanded work to include the full scope of issues affecting Kentuckians’ civil rights and liberties: abolition of the death penalty, LGBTQ equality, immigrants’ rights, justice reform, voting rights, youth rights, and reproductive freedom.
Recently, reforming the criminal legal system has become one of the ACLU of Kentucky’s primary issue areas. Under Aldridge’s leadership, ACLU-KY secured significant funding and found common ground with other advocacy organizations to advance common sense justice reforms. ACLU-KY recognized the need to develop meaningful and authentic relationships with directly impacted people and communities in the organization’s work. People most affected by an issue often know the best solutions. This led to an intensive search for policy strategists who had experience with the legal system, substance use disorder, pregnancy and parenting, and more. This has naturally expanded and strengthened the organization’s relationships with frontline community representatives, allowed the organization to promote positive legislation rather than only oppose negative legislation, and increased legal and legislative victories. For instance, during the 2021 legislative session, the team passed a record number of 8 bills crafted by the ACLU of Kentucky and stopped numerous bills attacking LGBTQ youth, government transparency, and freedom of speech.
“Under Michael's leadership, I've seen this organization transform in ways that I could never imagine,” said Board member Dr. Cherie Dawson-Edwards. “For the last 14 years, I've walked alongside Michael as he and the phenomenal staff unapologetically and strategically fought for civil liberties and justice for Kentuckians. I am proud of how the ACLU-KY has evolved and I look forward to experiencing what we will become in this next chapter.”
Last, while the ACLU-KY’s most visible work happens externally, under Aldridge’s tenure, the organization implemented new internal policies to fulfill its commitment to justice. Considering the experiences of staff and partners, these new policies center voices that are often unheard, will build a bench of future advocates, and equitably grow the staff. Additionally, the board worked with staff to create a recruiting and hiring process rooted in meaningful diversity, and to create space where people from different backgrounds and walks of life feel welcome. These ongoing changes will help build structures that allow all Kentuckians to engage in the ACLU-KY’s work and hold the organization to the same standards it expects of our government.
ACLU of Kentucky Deputy Director Amber Duke will be appointed interim executive director while the organization conducts a search for Aldridge’s replacement.