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Historical Society approves new director

Although a committee already offered him the job, the Goodhue County Historical Society Board of Directors on Monday voted unanimously to approve hiring Dustin Heckman as the organization’s new executive director.

But Heckman said he wasn’t told his hiring was contingent on the vote, and it was his understanding that the offer already was finalized when he accepted it around two weeks ago.

Board members said offering the job before final approval — a move they said was agreed to previously — was to give Heckman more time to leave his current position as director of the Mower County Historical Society and get settled before interim Director Amy Nelson steps down in mid-April.

“We wanted that overlap,” said GCHS Vice-Chair Roger Hand, who headed the personnel committee that guided the hiring process.

Moving quickly to offer Heckman the job also was important because of potential competition from other historical societies also looking for a director, Goodhue County Commissioner Ron Allen said. He is the GCHS county liaison and participated in the interview process.

There was little doubt the board would approve Heckman, as he was the clear frontrunner for the position, Allen said.

Interviews were conducted March 2, with a five-member committee agreeing unanimously to go with Heckman, Hand said. Nelson also was included in the discussion.

An email was sent to board members Friday March 7 explaining the choice and asking for objections, and Hand said he received only one reply with a concern about the proposed director salary. He added that the lack of response was taken as a sign of support from the board, and Heckman was offered the position sometime that weekend.

When asked what would happen if the board didn’t formally approve the decision, Hand said he was not aware of any discussion on how that would have been handled.

Three people were interviewed for director from a list of 15 candidates, said GCHS Treasurer Keith Fossen, also a member of the interview committee.

The board “shall be empowered to employ or dismiss a director,” according to the historical society’s bylaws, but the document doesn’t specify exactly how to conduct the process.

Established in 1869, GCHS is the oldest historical society in Minnesota. But the organization was hit hard by budget challenges and reduced attendance in past years. To compensate, Goodhue County History Center staff was cut to three full-time employees, down from nearly a dozen in the late-1990s.

The society’s funding sources include admission and membership fees, grants, donations and taxpayer assistance from Goodhue County. The county approved a $92,000 allocation to the historical society for 2014, the same amount provided last year.

Red Wing City Council also voted last August to waive a $10,882 rent balance on the city-owned museum building for 2013, which the GCHS Board said was necessary to balance the organization’s budget. The city waived the entire 2012 rent.

Former Director Char Henn stepped down from the job last summer. Heckman’s first day as her permanent replacement is set for March 31.

“I’m excited to get started and get to know the community,” Heckman said Tuesday.

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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