Kathryn Shea, the longtime leader of the Florida Center, announced that she will be retiring in June after two decades working at the nonprofit.

After nearly 20 years helping provide developmental therapy and mental health services to some of Sarasota’s youngest and most vulnerable residents, Florida Center Chief Executive Officer Kathryn Shea announced her retirement on Tuesday.


The Sarasota-based center, which provides a range of services for children from birth to age 8, was founded in 1979, and Shea has worked there since 2000. After filling a variety of roles, in both clinical and administrative capacities, Shea became CEO of the nonprofit in 2008.


Shea will stay in her role through June 30, and the board of directors aims to have the position filled by July 1. Although Shea is retiring, she has no plans to slow down. She will be working as a consultant at the Florida Center for 20 to 30 hours a week, she said, finishing ongoing projects.


"In a sense I am kind of sad about leaving at this really exciting time," Shea said. "But now I will have free time to dig in and work on things like early childhood court, expanding trauma-informed community, mental health consultation in preschool and changing policy in Tallahassee."


She looks to surviving the recession as the greatest challenge she endured during her time as CEO, and she said that the level of credibility the center has now achieved makes her comfortable to step aside.


Shea is a state expert in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, and was instrumental in procuring state funding to establish the state’s first FASD diagnostic and intervention clinic, located at the center in Sarasota, according to a press release announcing her retirement.


She also helped lead the effort to secure a $9 million agreement with the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration to develop an early childhood mental health care system in Sarasota.


"While we will miss Kathryn’s leadership on a day-to-day basis, we knew this day would come," said the Florida Center Chairman Jeff Woodin. "She has worked tirelessly on behalf of young children and we look forward to her continued advocacy."