Hopeline, director abruptly part ways

Dwight Decoskey Albemarle Hopeline Director

By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Thursday, September 20, 2018

In a surprising move, Albemarle Hopeline has apparently fired its director after less than four months on the job.

“We thank Mr. (Dwight) Decoskey for his service to this important organization,” Albemarle Hopeline President Robert Kelly-Goss said in a press release Thursday.

Kelly-Goss also said Heidi Prentiss, a long-serving Hopeline employee, will serve as interim director with Decoskey’s departure.

In a phone interview, Kelly-Goss declined to say why Hopeline’s board was parting ways with Decoskey, whom it strongly supported when announcing his hiring in May. Kelly-Goss said only that Hopeline plans to go in a different direction and that its board would meet to further define that direction.

Hopeline is a nonprofit organization that works to combat domestic violence and sexual assault through education and counseling. It also provides emergency shelter to victims of abuse.

Kelly-Goss declined to say if Decoskey had done anything wrong, and praised him as a “great guy” and a “professional.” He also said Hopeline would examine some of his initiatives. Decoskey spoke about those initiatives as recently as Monday, when he introduced himself to Pasquotank County commissioners during their finance committee meeting.

Though Kelly-Goss would not say if Decoskey had been fired, Decoskey suggested his leaving the agency was not a mutual decision.

“Today I am in a state of shock and awe at the treatment that I have received from my board; treatment from an organization for which I’ve represented, advocated, and one in which I believed and supported with the highest regard,” Decoskey said in an email.

Decoskey said he needed “some time to process” the board’s decision, so he declined to say why he had been let go.

He added, however, that “I respect Hopeline’s service to this community but cannot respect the board’s decision at this time.”

Decoskey, a South Mills resident and former military contractor, took over at Hopeline after Katherine Rogers stepped down as director. Rogers did so voluntarily because Hopeline needed someone with strong experience in managing grants, she said in May. After his hiring was announced, Decoskey said he initially applied to be Hopeline’s grant administrator, but the board offered him the director’s job.

Though Decoskey came to Hopeline with a background in grant management and business administration, he lacked experience in counseling or related fields; Rogers also lacked that experience. He intended to focus on the business side of Hopeline to let counselors focus on their jobs, he told commissioners on Monday.

Decoskey was also notable as Hopeline’s first male director. Rogers said at the time he was hired that it’s not unprecedented for men to run counseling and shelter organizations.

Kelly-Goss indicated Prentiss would not grant an interview, saying she had been directed to refer all questions to him — including ones about her credentials and service to the Hopeline. Kelly-Goss said Prentiss has a background in psychology and counseling.