The Dickinson County Historical Society was scheduled to reopen this morning (Wednesday) following a special meeting Monday night that put a fully operational board in place.
Twelve people were appointed and elected to the DCHS Board of Trustees during the meeting that was scheduled following the unexpected resignations of the 2019 board and administrator on Thursday.
The resignations likely stemmed from a volatile November 2019 annual meeting when the membership at large showed its disapproval of changes that had occurred at the facility during the year, including eliminating the traditional Statehood Ball and other long-standing events.
During that November meeting, six new trustees — nominated by members in attendance — were elected by a write-in vote.
James Holland, one of the six new trustees elected in November, chaired the meeting. He later was elected president of the board.
A large number of historical society members were in attendance.
Holland told them that regaining the trust of all members is the main goal of the new board of trustees as they start 2020.
“We have a clean slate,” Holland said, speaking of the resignations of the 2019 board. “Which I think in some ways provides us with an opportunity to put things together and put things right.”
Gale Whitehair, one of the six trustees elected in November, said last Thursday former Board President Steve Marston and former Vice-President Steve Houlton asked her and new trustee Nanc Scholl to meet with them at the historical society. Scholl was unable to attend at the time, but Whitehair said they handed her the building keys and the letters of resignation.
The men said the trustees waited to resign in January after the newly-elected members’ terms began, Whitehair said.
They did take the time to talk to her a little about the operation of the facility.
An “operational board”
The first order of business Monday night was to get an “operating board of trustees.” First, 10 members were appointed to reach a quorum, required by the 2018 bylaws that establishes an 18-member board.
Legal counsel was consulted and that person said that was the proper procedure to follow, Holland said.
Once the quorum number was reached, the board voted to accept the resignations of the 2019 members. That step was necessary in order to free up board spots for new members.
Resignations were accepted from Marston, Houlton, Shawna Landers, Jay Aurand, Seth Stout and Angie Casteel (whose term was going to expire this month) and Administrator Judy Zimmer.
The board then approved six additional members to serve one-year terms.
Later in the meeting, the executive board was elected: President James Holland; Vice-President Gale Whitehair; Secretary Amy Feigley; and Treasurer Nanc Scholl. Each is serving a three-year term.
The board also includes: Cindy Wedel, Duane Schrag and Mid Hansen, all elected this past November to a three-year term; Austin Anders, Charlene Cook, Amy Feigley, Louise Frey, Steve Meuli and Scott Reynolds, two year terms; and Ron Barbieri, Johnny Kinder, Jill Lang, Thelma Lexow, Kelly Taylor and Dave Gares, one year terms.
Whitehair said she was told that Bonnie Lynn-Sherow, an associate professor of American History at Kansas State University and executive director of the Chapman Center for Rural Studies, had cancelled the contract with the Dickinson County Historical Society “because the membership was so rude at the annual meeting” and did not like the advice StEP (a museum planning system) had been providing.
Whitehair said the new trustees hoped to meet with Lynn-Sherow and explain the situation. Lynn-Sherow came to the November meeting “totally unaware” of the hard feelings and that things had not been done according to bylaws for several months.
“She was caught off guard,” Whitehair explained. “We would like to meet with her, visit with her and give her some background. It (StEP) is a great program.”
The Chapman Center was awarded a $100,000 public access grant through the National Endowment for the Humanities to help historical societies and museums with professional advice and planning in collections, preservations and programming.
One of the reasons historical society members were displeased with the former board of trustees stemmed from the 2019 shut down of the research room and archives. Whitehair said the former board gave the impression that closure occurred under Lynn-Sherow’s direction, but the trustees made that decision.
“You can certainly do an ongoing inventory even when people are researching things and archiving things,” Whitehair noted. “I want everyone to understand that was not what Dr. Lynn-Sherow told them.”
Former DCHS Office Manager Twila Jackson told members the 2019 board did not initiate the StEP program.
Former Director Jeff Sheets signed up for the StEP program during his tenure and later when former Director Michael Hook was in charge, the Chapman Center said they would work with the museum in 2019, Jackson explained.
Holland told members the new board had a number of areas they needed to get a handle on, especially finances. He asked trustees to examine the financial reports to be discussed at the next meeting.
Holland asked the board to meet at 7 p.m. weekly this month on Tuesdays — Jan. 14, Jan. 21 and Jan. 28.
“We need all hands on deck. We’ve got a lot of stuff to do in a short period of time to keep operations going,” he said. “There’s things coming up. We need to make decisions and we can’t wait three weeks to do it.”
He asked the trustees to spend as much time as possible at the historical society to get familiar with operations “as we’re going through this time of transition,” especially since there is no director.
Holland suggested trustees contact as many former members as possible — including anyone who has been a member in the past five years —and “let them know we are here and we are operating.”
Dickinson County Commissioner Lynn Peterson thanked the new trustees for coming forward to serve.
“This is so important for our community and county. I know there’s some people out there who have been reluctant to participate financially because of some of the discord and misunderstandings,” Peterson said. “James (Holland) said it quite well when he said this is an opportunity.”
His comment was greeted with applause.
The newsletter will be sent out to members and other methods of communication will be utilized.
“We will do our best to keep you aware of what’s going on in our society,” Holland said. “That’s part of mending fences and building trust.”
All members are encouraged to be involved in meetings, Whitehair said. Each meeting will have a time for members to ask questions, have input or voice concerns.
Lack of input has been going on too long, she said.
“This last year brought it to a head. That’s not the kind of organization we are and that’s not what the founding fathers and women wanted for this society,” Whitehair said. “We want to be open and above board.”
Contact Kathy Hageman at firstname.lastname@example.org.