Museum Will Take Time To Find New Director

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Athens County Historical Society and Museum will not move quickly to find a new director, instead using the delay as an opportunity to save some money, according to board President Tom O'Grady. 

A search committee has not been formed, and an interim director has not been appointed.

"It was the recommendation of the finance committee that we not fill the director's position at this time and move forward with the capable staff and strong volunteer contingent," O'Grady said in an e-mail to The Messenger.

Ron Luce resigned as director at the end of 2013.

Board Treasurer Ellsworth Holden, who is chairman of the finance committee, said he personally favors keeping the position vacant until June 30, the end of the fiscal year, and then assessing the situation at that time. In the interim the search process could be started, he said.

Both O'Grady and Holden said the position is not being kept vacant at this time because the museum is at financial risk.

"The organization is facing no particular financial problems. We face the same challenges as all non-profits and are always working on fundraising opportunities," O'Grady said.

This fiscal year the board added a fourth staff person to help with fundraising and other duties, so with the director's position being vacant the museum has gone back to three staff people. Holden said that at the time this fiscal year's budget was approved, he opposed funding the fourth position until it could be demonstrated that fundraising could cover the cost.

Both O'Grady and Holden said the staff and volunteers have demonstrated in the past that they can operate the museum with the director absent. Holden said the staff and volunteers meet on a regular basis.

"With a strong staff and volunteer/intern program, it is felt that the organization can continue with its normal operations in the meantime with decreased operating expenses until the position is filled," O'Grady said. "A target date of the annual meeting in June was suggested, but not formalized."

Holden said that with the director on board, the museum operates at a "modest deficit" that it can cover from its financial reserves.

O'Grady said Luce was paid an annual salary of about $30,000 and no benefits. 

Holden said he favors eventually filling the director's position, with the idea being to boost fundraising so the museum is not operating at a deficit.

O'Grady noted that plans are underway for the museum's big fundraiser for the year, the annual Civl War Ball scheduled for March 29 at the Athens Community Center. He said a volunteer committee is being established for the annual Arts and Antiquities Auction, which will be held in the fall.

"We have gone for several months without a director in the past, and the board, while interested in filling the position, is not going to be hasty about it," O'Grady said.