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Longtime Leader Of Kansas City's Guadalupe Centers Retires Amid Reports Of Workplace Investigation

Guadalupe Centers
Cris Medina led Guadalupe Centers from 1980 until this week, when his retirement was announced amid reports of a workplace investigation.

Cris Medina's impact on Kansas City's Latino community is difficult to overstate. He took over leadership of Guadalupe Centers in 1980, and oversaw the organization's tremendous growth.

The leader of the country’s longest continuously-operating agency serving Latinos is retiring, effective immediately, according to an email from the organization’s attorney.

Cris Medina has been CEO of Kansas City’s Guadalupe Centers since 1980. During his tenure, the nonprofit expanded programming and services to tens of thousands in the region, according to the press release announcing his retirement.

Over the weekend, The Kansas City Star reported that Medina had been placed on administrative leave in March, pending a workplace investigation. Guadalupe Centers’ attorneys have not commented on the investigation. KCUR reached out to several current and former staff and board members, but has not yet received a response.

Medina’s influence on the nonprofit, and in the local Latino community, has been deep, said Theresa Torres, a UMKC professor who has written about the organization.

“When something happens in the Latinx community today,” Torres said, “people will call up Cris Medina — he’s like the first person that they talk to.”

Medina was also instrumental in developing many current leaders in the local Latino community, according to Torres.

The organization began as a Catholic women’s club in 1919, known then as “las tres casas blancas” — the three white houses — according to Torres, who served on Guadalupe Center’s board of directors in the 1990s and has continued to remain involved.

She said Medina had planned to retire shortly after the nonprofit’s 100-year anniversary, but the coronavirus pandemic and Medina’s hospitalization due to COVID-19 meant changes had to be made.

“His goal was always to finish off the celebration, and then, you know, they already had a plan for succession at Guadalupe Center,” Torres said.

Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
The Guadalupe Centers facility on Avenida Cesar Chavez, in the city's Westside neighborhood, is on the National Register for Historic Places. The organization is the longest continuously-operating agency serving Latinos in the United States.

Under Medina’s 41 years of leadership, the scope of services offered by the organization expanded greatly. In 1985, they began offering head-start education, and now operate several charter schools in the area.

Medina also oversaw a $5.8 million renovation of the Guadalupe Center’s historic facility on Avenida Cesar Chavez in the Westside neighborhood.

“On behalf of all directors and the thousands of Kansas Citians served over the years, we would like to thank Cris for his decades of service to Guadalupe Center,” said Guadalupe Centers board Chairman Paul Rojas in the press release.

The board of directors have named current Chief Operating Officer Beto Lopez as acting executive director and CEO. Lopez is also the mayor pro tem of Lee’s Summit, Missouri.

Despite the investigation, Torres said she believes the situation will end amicably.

“The most important thing is the ongoing work of Guadalupe Centers, and improving the lives of Latinos in the city,” she said. “Hopefully (through) this transition Guadalupe Centers will continue its long history of leadership and service excellence.”

As culture editor, I oversee KCUR’s coverage of race, culture, the arts, food and sports. I work with reporters to make sure our stories reflect the fullest view of the place we call home, so listeners and readers feel primed to explore the places, projects and people who make up a vibrant Kansas City. Email me at luke@kcur.org.
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