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Ky.’s Sunrise elects new president

MT. WASHINGTON, Ky. (BP) — A Kentucky children’s services agency has elected a new president with a vision of reaffirming the organization’s Baptist identity following controversy surrounding the previous president.

“I am committed to continuing our vital partnership with Kentucky Baptists and the Kentucky Baptist Convention,” said Dale Suttles, who was elected president of Sunrise Children’s Services July 31. “Churches, businesses and corporations across this state help Sunrise give kids a path of life that guarantees their futures.”

Suttles, who had served as Sunrise’s interim president since December 2013, was unanimously elected president during a quarterly board of directors meeting. Before becoming interim president, Suttles served as Sunrise’s regional advancement director for southeastern Kentucky.

Paul Chitwood, KBC executive director and ex officio member of the Sunrise board, said, “I am thankful that the Lord has raised up a man of courage and conviction in Dale Suttles. God has given Dale the skill set to take advantage of this opportunity.”

Suttles, 54, is a native of Olive Hill, Ky., and a graduate of Morehead State University. He was named Sunrise’s interim president following the resignation of Bill Smithwick amid controversy surrounding Smithwick’s recommendation to revise the ministry’s employment practices.

After news broke of Smithwick’s recommendation in 2013, messengers to the KBC annual meeting that year issued a vote of no confidence and replaced a slate of six nominees for Sunrise’s 24-member board with nominees from the convention floor. Messengers filled five other vacancies created by resignations from the board.

Smithwick had expressed concern that refusal to employ homosexuals could result in the loss of Sunrise’s federal funding, which amounted to more than $1 million annually, according to a 2013 Baptist Press report. Sunrise told BP Aug. 20 it cannot discuss the organization’s present financial status due to ongoing litigation.

For more than a decade, Sunrise has been embroiled in a lawsuit surrounding its firing of a homosexual employee.

Chitwood noted, “Working with Dale, I have no doubt that he will always do what is right for children and serve in a way that honors the Lord. This Kentucky Baptist ministry to hurting children is being led by one of our own. Dale is a member of a great church, Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky.”

Suttles said he is “deeply humbled” by the opportunity to lead Sunrise.

“We are positioned to make a real difference — not in child welfare but in the well-being of this state’s neediest of children,” Suttles said.

KBC President Tom James said Suttles “has done an incredible job. Under Dale’s leadership, it has proven to be a new day at Sunrise. I’m excited and just agreed to serve a four-year term on the board.”

Before going to Sunrise, Suttles was executive director of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the Bluegrass, a position he held for two-and-a-half years.

Suttles and his wife Libby have two children and live in Danville, Ky., where she is executive director of the Wilderness Trace Child Development Center.