Smith Leaves Kaitz Foundation

The Walter Kaitz Foundation will look for its third executive director in five years, as Debbie Smith is leaving the diversity organization to take a position at Discovery Communications Inc.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association, which oversees the foundation, has retained executive-search firm Isaacson, Miller, which recruited Smith two years ago for the position.

NCTA spokesman Rob Stoddard said the organization -- which is charged with helping to ensure minority access to employment opportunities within the cable industry -- will cast the widest net possible to recruit a new director, although no timetable has been set.

“We want to identify someone with a great affinity for diversity, but who has skills and attributes related to foundation work and, if possible, some familiarity with the communications industry,” he added.

Smith will start April 3 as vice president of diversity and human-resources services at Discovery, based in Silver Spring, Md.

She served nearly two years at the helm of the Kaitz foundation.

Under Smith’s tutelage, the foundation raised some $1.5 million each year during its annual fund-raising dinner and increased awareness of and participation in its Supplier Diversity program, which helps to recruit minority vendors for work within the industry.

Stoddard said Smith will help the NCTA during the transition period.

Smith took over the foundation in 2004, one year after Art Torres Jr. resigned amid questions about his dual role as Kaitz director and his leadership role within the California Democratic Party.

Torres took over the organization in September 2000, one year after Paula Winn resigned as the organization took heat for not doing enough to increase the ranks of minority employees in cable.

Under Torres’ reign, the foundation moved from a recruiter of minority executives to a provider of grants to organizations in support of cable-industry diversity efforts.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.