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Museums board to move forward with examination of one-director model

Jul 25, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

A change in leadership coincided with a new direction for the Fremont County Museums Board. At a July 11 meeting, the group chose to examine a management structure with one, countywide director after hearing direction from county commissioners to pursue that option.

Members elected Steve Banks to be chairman after Tom Duncan decided not to pursue the office again.

"The commissioners directed us. No matter the plan, we have to maintain the autonomy of each individual museum," Banks said in an interview.

Mid-August deadline

The board also voted 3-2 to investigate the one-director option from among three administrative systems. It will develop a plan to implement the structural change and report back the Fremont County Commission about it in mid-August.

Under a one-director structure, directors of each museum would report to the overall director who would answer to the museums board, Banks said. Staffing would remain the same at each museum, and budgeting would be a big issue, he said.

The Fremont County Commission seemed to want a single director responsible for all three museums, Banks said.

He emphasized a final decision had not been made.

"This is just a preliminary arrangement asked for by the commission,"he said. "If there are issues they don't like we can go back for another iteration until we reach a compromise for the best overall performance."

Other options

The Dubois, Riverton and Lander museums each has a director position, all of whom answer to the Museums Board. The Lander museum's director position has been vacant for a year.

Riverton Museum director Loren Jost is retiring at the end of July.

Creating a special museums district or keeping three directors and adding a countywide business manager were the two other options the board considered.

A special district would be able to levy taxes and its board members would be directly elected, Banks said. But creating a museums district would involve petitioning property owners.

"That would take a long time to do and may not work," Banks said.

Under the business manager plan, the new position would be responsible for buildings, budgeting and technology, but each museum's director would be in charge of other aspects of their facility and report directly to the museums board.

Though he personally preferred the business manager option, the majority of board members opted for the one-director structure, Banks said. So he is going "full bore" to develop a plan to have a single director.

Commissioner Stephanie Kessler also presented results from a poll of county board members regarding the museums.

All five said they preferred the one-director management structure with an administrative assistant and three site managers who report to that person.

Other options in the poll were keeping the existing structure and a "business manager" arrangement.

The business manager would assume administrative duties for all the museums while each site retained a director.

All four positions would answer directly to the museums board.

Commissioners all picked the same answer to a question about the museums system's priorities. The consensus was for "all of the above," referring to prioritizing inventorying artifacts, educational displays, educational and public involvement opportunities, public outreach and community fund raising events.

Comments from county board members stated attention to inventorying artifacts should not overwhelm other activities, and they suggested holding public meetings to gather input on priorities.

On the final question, all five commissioners agreed to postpone a deadline for a report back from the Museums Board on restructuring. The Museums Board was to bring a plan back to the commission by Aug. 1, but the new due date is "mid-August."

The board has a new member, Erin Shirley, and elected Banks the chairman, John Lane the vice chairman, Shirley the secretary and Carol Chidsey the treasurer.

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