Karla Rothan Biography
Karla Rothan is a proven nonprofit leader and activist with over thirty years of experience. Rothan began her career as a member of the touring company, MadCap productions, in Cincinnati and subsequently the Columbus Children's Theatre in Columbus, Ohio.
Rothan founded New Venture Theatre in 1992 and continued working for arts organizations like the prestigious Wexner Center for the Arts until 1998. A graduate of The Ohio State University in 1986, Rothan fell in love with Columbus and moved to Central Ohio in 1989. In just seven years as the Public Information Officer for the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging (COAAA), Rothan was able to offer her adept public relations skills to increase visibility and strengthen name recognition for the organization. She succeeded in setting COAAA apart in the marketplace by providing consistent, eye-catching publications and video productions that stabilized brand identity.
In June 2006, Stonewall Columbus was at a crossroads. It had a sudden absence of leadership with no steady income. Stonewall purchased a property in the Short North Arts District in 2004, and that risk put the organization in danger. Rothan began as a six-month interim director and took the helm as the Executive Director in March 2007. She recognized that Stonewall had a poor nonprofit business infrastructure, and she set out to correct it. During her 12 years in that role, Rothan entirely transformed the business model for the organization, increasing its budget from $400,000 to over $1 million in yearly revenue. She began by developing a fundraising plan that incorporated membership and annual giving. Under her watch, the annual Stonewall Columbus Pride Festival grew from 10,000 people in attendance to 500,000 people annually. Columbus Pride is one of the largest and most widely respected festivals in the country, attracting international attention and provides enormous economic impact for Columbus, Ohio. She developed partnerships with local government, arts organizations, social service agencies and other nonprofit organizations to create programs for the LGBTQ community and its allies. In 2013, in partnership with other leaders in the city, Stonewall embarked on a capital campaign to renovate and restore the Stonewall Columbus Community Center. The campaign raised $3.8 million in five years, with nearly 300 donors. Today, Stonewall Columbus is one of 27 LGBTQ community centers in the nation to own its facility, and Columbus is one of the only cities to have dedicated space for the LGBTQ community.
Rothan retired from Stonewall Columbus in 2018 and started a consulting firm. She continues to work on vital causes and, most recently, is dedicated to a project that will help to end the opioid epidemic and restore the lives of families ripped apart by addiction.
Rothan is one of the longest-serving Columbus Recreation and Parks commissioners, having been appointment most recently by Mayor Andrew Ginther. Mayor Michael B. Coleman appointed Rothan to the 2020 commission and entrusted her to serve on the Columbus Body Camera committee. The committee's purpose was to write and define all of the policies and procedures that the Columbus Division of Police needed to use body cameras in the line of duty. Rothan is one of the founding board members of the Columbus Recreation and Parks Foundation. She is a member of the board of trustees for the Greater Columbus Arts Council and the Short North Alliance. She lives in Victorian Village with her spouse of 23 years, Linda Schuler, and their Yorkie son, Jake.