Texas House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) thanks the crowd after receiving the International Citizen of the Year Award.
The World Affairs Council of San Antonio honors Texas House Speaker Joe Straus as its International Citizen of the Year earlier this year. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

The executive committee of the World Affairs Council of San Antonio has named a replacement leader following the departure of the group’s executive director earlier this month.

Retired senior military officer and nonprofit executive Tim Farrell is serving as interim executive director, replacing Leslie Palmer, who led the local chapter of the educational foreign policy forum since July 2016. Palmer said her resignation was mutually agreed upon by her and the board and was effective Nov. 16.

“It was just time for someone new to come in and take the organization to the next level,” Palmer said. “In the nonprofit world, an organization needs certain things at certain times. The World Affairs Council has come a long way and I’m proud of it and what we achieved while I was there, with the work of the staff and the board and members.

“But it was best for me to do something good for me, to take a break, and it was best for the organization to have a fresh set of eyes.”

World Affairs Council Board Chairman Nick Hollis, president and CEO of Coherent Cyber, said he met Farrell a few years ago when he joined the World Affairs Council. “We thought he was a fine candidate,” Hollis said of Farrell’s background in international affairs and diplomacy. “Ultimately, he and I remained friends and the opportunity came up and I spoke with him and he said he would be interested. … To capture someone of this caliber, we feel is a coup.”

Chartered in 1982, the World Affairs Council of San Antonio is a nonprofit educational forum focused on foreign policy issues. It is one of 90 World Affairs Councils across the United States that sponsor programs and educational initiatives to promote public understanding of world affairs and U.S. foreign policy through lectures, discussion groups, and educational outreach programs.

Palmer said the World Affairs Council of San Antonio grew to over 1,000 memberships during her tenure, making it one of the largest of the mid-sized councils in the country.

“It’s something we worked at because we knew that San Antonio was prime for this,” Palmer said. “When I was hired, one of the charges for me was to communicate who we were and what we did to the community and expanded membership to a greater swath of the community. We’ve done that and it’s paid off. We have members from high school students to every kind of profession in the city and people interested in the world around us and how these global issues impact our lives.”

Farrell served as a state leader and advisor for the global leadership coalition Veterans for Smart Power for the last two years and recently served as a member of the City of San Antonio’s Commission on Veterans Affairs. He is the former chief operating officer for Operation Homefront and served as interim chief operating officer of The DoSeum in 2012. Previously, Farrell was commander of the 332d Expeditionary Security Forces Group in Iraq.

“This is a wonderful organization in terms of increasing awareness of international affairs,” Farrell said Monday of the World Affairs Council. “Seeing the quality and the gravitas of the people who come to speak to San Antonio, the young professionals’ groups that the council is building here and getting them globally aware, the work we do in the school systems – all of that got me excited about taking this on.”

In February, the World Affairs Council will recognize former San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger as its 2019 International Citizen of the Year. National Public Radio national political correspondent Mara Liasson is the keynote speaker for the Feb. 21 event.

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Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.