Director resigns from domestic violence center in Baton Rouge _lowres

Judy Benitez

Judy Benitez resigned Wednesday as executive director of the Iris Domestic Violence Center in Baton Rouge after nearly two years at the helm, the Iris board of directors announced in a statement.

“We are extremely grateful for Judy’s years of service to our agency, survivors and the community in which we serve,” said Danna LeBlanc, president of the Center’s board of directors. “She has been an asset to the organization and we wish her well in her future endeavors.”

The resignation is effective immediately, board Vice President Aubrey Wascome said.

“We really appreciate everything she did for us the last two years,” Wascome said.

Benitez said she enjoyed working with the energetic workers and volunteers during her time at Iris.

“I certainly think that the agency has come really far in its development and I hope they continue on that positive path,” she said.

The statement said Benitez was leaving to explore other options. Benitez did not elaborate when contacted Wednesday afternoon.

Beth Meeks, executive director of the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said Benitez is well-known among sexual assault and domestic violence groups around the country and her leadership will be sought after.

Meeks said Benitez brought a guiding hand to Iris and surrounded herself there with a strong staff who can carry on in her absence.

Gail Gaiennie, who will serve as interim executive director during the search for a new director, has worked at several nonprofit agencies during the past 15 years.

Wascome said they have no timetable to find a replacement.

The Iris Domestic Violence Center serves about 5,000 women and children each year from a seven-parish area: East and West Baton Rouge, East and West Feliciana, Ascension, Iberville and Pointe Coupee.