21/05/2008 - 22:00

Levitzke leaves society in good hands

21/05/2008 - 22:00

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WA Deaf Society CEO John Levitzke has retired from the charity after 30 years at the helm.

WA Deaf Society CEO John Levitzke has retired from the charity after 30 years at the helm.

One of the longest serving CEOs in the not-for-profit sector, Mr Levitzke left the role on May 1 amid much thanks from the WA Deaf Society board of directors, his staff, the business community, charitable organisations, and WA's deaf community.

"After 30 years in the same office with the same ongoing challenges for money, which for most charities is always tight, the strain becomes quite tiring and I think it's time to move on and give it to young blood," Mr Levitzke told WA Business News.

"We're funded 20 per cent most of the time by the government, but the other 80 per cent we have to raise ourselves, which is no different to any charity.

"But now you have to implement strategic plans and business plans and those sorts of things, which the young people are right in to these days.

"So it's time for a fresh outlook, a new structure." Mr Levitzke has overseen a raft of technological advances during his tenure that has allowed more hearing impaired people to enter the workforce.

The advent of TTY (text telephone), improved hearing aids and SMS has helped deaf people access the communication exchange, he said.

However, the introduction of specialised staff at the WA Deaf Society and accreditation for interpreters were catalysts for the organisation's growth.

When Mr Levitzke was appointed CEO in 1978 there were less than 400 known signing deaf people in WA and seven staff members at the society, which had a budget of $130,000.

Mr Levitzke leaves the WA Deaf Society with about 1,200 signing deaf people in WA, 70 employees and a $2.4 million budget.

This year's 'interpreter of the year', Karen Bontempo, who hosted Mr Levitzke's resignation ceremony at Government House, said the outgoing CEO was an impassioned supporter of the deaf community and a dedicated ambassador for the WA Deaf Society.

"John was a smart leader," she said.

"He achieved much because he delegated much.

He believed in his staff and in team effort; he expected loyalty from his staff and he gave it back in spades, and most importantly he genuinely cared for his staff's welfare."

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