Historic Annapolis head to leave post

Foundation president says he met his main goal

May 28, 2006|By JAMIE STIEHM | JAMIE STIEHM,SUN REPORTER

Gregory A. Stiverson, the most visible advocate of preservation in Annapolis, announced last week that he will leave in December when his four-year contract ends.

Stiverson, president and chief executive of the Historic Annapolis Foundation, said he achieved his main goal with last month's grand opening of HistoryQuest at the St. Clair Wright Center. The foundation's board had spent a half-century discussing how to create a place where tourists, residents and the Naval Academy community could get an overview of the state capital's history.

With the completion of the $3 million multimedia center in a circa-1790 Main Street building, Stiverson said, he and the board of trustees agreed it was time for a change.

"The one thing I wanted to do was get the history center up and running," Stiverson, 59, said. "It [has] bugged me since 1968, since the first day I visited Annapolis, when I asked a parking lot attendant where I could learn about Annapolis history, and he said, `Baltimore.'"

The nonprofit foundation came under fire for hesitating to name the history center after the late Anne St. Clair Wright. She was known as the doyenne of the historic preservation movement when urban renewal threatened the city's quaint streets and skyline. Her family and Historic Annapolis compromised last year on the center's name.

In the 1713 Shiplap House on Pinkney Street, used in the past as a store, tavern and a tenement, Stiverson, who often dons a bow tie, has led a genteel working life at Historic Annapolis headquarters. But he said he's not sorry to leave.

Stiverson said the mix of public advocacy for preservation, managing a staff of 20 full-time employees, fundraising for an annual budget of more than $2 million - along with shepherding HistoryQuest to completion - took a toll.

The foundation, started by a band of volunteers led by St. Clair Wright in 1952, receives grants from the city, county and state, along with private contributions.

"The demands of running a nonprofit are so great, sometimes you have to look to someone new," Stiverson said. "Now is a good time for new programming."

"It [my departure] caught a lot of people by surprise and it's not a step you take lightly," Stiverson said in his library-like office, which offers views of City Dock and the bay.

He and Barry R. Jackson, chairman of the board, described the decision as a mutual parting.

Jackson praised Stiverson's record as "very productive ... with a tremendous accomplishment, HistoryQuest, for which we'll always be grateful."

With the history center now open for business, Jackson said, "We took it before the board and everyone thought it would be good for Greg to do other things."

Foundation officials declined to reveal Stiverson's salary. Jackson said a regional or national search will be launched to find a successor, not necessarily someone who holds a doctorate in history, as Stiverson does.

"There are a lot of skill sets involved," Jackson said. "We'll have a tough time."

After a career that combines 20 years of scholarly work as an assistant state archivist followed by stints in the nonprofit sector, including heading Historic London Town and Gardens, Stiverson said he does not yet know his next step.

But Stiverson, a native of Washington state and a married father of three, said he expects to stay in Annapolis.

jamie.stiehm@baltsun.com

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