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Shelton Haynes, Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation CEO, Talks C-Suite Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion


One place where diversity, equity, and inclusion still need to be improved, in many cases, is the C-Suite, states Shelton Haynes, CEO of Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation. As the company’s second black CEO in almost four decades of operation, he felt that he had a duty to not only hire the best individuals for the roles that needed filling when he took over as interim CEO in 2020, but he should also help promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in his selections. In a recent interview, Mr. Haynes mentioned, “It’s a bonus having complementary pieces who happen to be minorities. However, when given a résumé, I first look at the experience of the individual, not their name or background.” This dedication is reflected in his executive team.

Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation expanding toles and new talent

As Shelton Haynes took over the CEO role at Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, first as an interim and then permanently in 2021, he immediately undertook a reorganization process in the organization to improve the operations. “We completely reorganized and reshaped our organization — we expanded roles and hired new talent thanks to succession planning — but it didn’t stop there; we grew processes and encouraged team members to think outside the box, impacting change immediately and preparing for the future with proper planning thanks to surrounding myself with a brilliant bunch of individuals,” he mentioned in a recent interview.

Big changes equal big results 

These changes led to excellent results across the entire organization, from capital projects to behind-the-scenes changes in virtually every aspect of Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation. In shaking up the executive team makeup, Shelton Hayes began encouraging diversity, equity and inclusion from the top down. Several new talented individuals were brought in or promoted from within the corporation to help make this change.

The company’s executive team includes Mary C. Cuneen, the company’s first woman and openly gay Vice President and Acting Chief Operating Officer, Gretchen Robinson as Vice President and General Counsel, Tajuna Sharpe as Assistant Vice President of Administration, Akeem Jamal as Assistant Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs, Gerrald Ellis as Assistant Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Daemen DiStefano as Assistant Chief Financial Officer,  Kevin Brown as Assistant Vice President and Chief of Public Safety, and Aida Morales as Chief of Staff. 

Shelton Hayes shows dedication to improvement. 

Roosevelt Island Operation Corporation VP and ACOO Mary C. Cuneed mentioned, “From an operations standpoint seeing progress made in the multiple waves we have seen from the inception of this administration is beyond satisfying and satiates my appetite for progress. However, with the overwhelming support from the top to invest in human capital, there has been no lapse in ensuring that our workforce is the best versions of themselves; simply put – you can’t put a price tag on that.” Because of the dedication Shelton Hayes has made to improving the diversity, equity, and inclusion of groups that are not being proportionately represented in business, the corporation has a very bright and promising future, in addition to its many achievements that have been made over the past several years. 

“Incredible things are in store for Roosevelt Island; the opportunities are endless. The sky’s the limit. Stay tuned for what’s to come because I promise you won’t want to miss it,” Shelton Haynes teased in a recent interview. With many improvements in operational efficiency, strong improvements in the level of capital projects, dedication to building the island as a premiere tourist destination, and improving diversity, equity, and inclusion on the island, the future is bright.

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