SafeHouse executive director Kathy Wells to retire

Published 8:15 pm Wednesday, April 17, 2013

By LINDA LONG/For the Reporter

Kathy Wells is retiring as executive director of SafeHouse, a Shelby County organization that supports battered and abused women and children.

“This work is my passion, my ministry, my mission,” said Wells, who has spent 35 years working with and advocating for domestic violence victims. “I am only retiring, I am not walking away from the work. I will always keep my hand in and stay involved. I am simply walking away from a full-time job, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day job.”

Wells, who served five years as SafeHouse’s executive director, said although facing retirement is “scary,” she knows it is something she needs to do at this time in her life.

“I have a mother with Alzheimer’s. I have two granddaughters and I’m about to become a great grandmother,” she said. “I need and want to be able to put my energy into things that are important to me, things that I haven’t been able to do for a long, long time.”

Wells, herself a survivor of domestic violence, speaks passionately about the difficult, dangerous and emotional road that led her to an unwavering commitment to help battered women and children. “I experienced domestic violence when no one spoke about it, when there were no shelters.”

During the five years she was married to her high school sweetheart, Wells feared for her life.

“He broke my nose, threw me down the steps put my head in a gas oven, but the worst beating came when I was 8 months pregnant,” she said. “When I had my daughter, I just could not stay in that environment. Nobody should.”

As to who will fill her position at SafeHouse, Wells said, “Nobody is irreplaceable. We have a great transition team, including both board and staff. The board is actively looking for a new director and I am very confident they will find someone.”

Remembering, her early days at SafeHouse, Wells said, “When I came, they were in a transition period and there were challenges. I was the right person to walk in the door at that time. I really believe that the right person, with the right skills and the right resources to take SafeHouse to the next phase, will be here.”