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State will shrink museum board
Thursday, May 17, 2012
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
The General Assembly recently voted to reduce the size of the Virginia Museum of Natural History Board of Trustees from 25 to 15 members in an effort to make the panel more effective.
The 40 percent reduction in the board’s size will be effective July 1.
Board members do not yet know how the reduction will be accomplished, said Chairman Sammy Redd of Martinsville.
Right now, 21 people — including eight from the Martinsville area — are on the board. Four seats are vacant, according to Redd.
He said Gov. Bob McDonnell has been looking at ways to streamline the boards of state agencies to try to make them more effective.
The museum specifically was targeted, Redd said, because it has the largest board among agencies under the state Secretary of Natural Resources.
It was determined that the museum board “should be brought into line with similar museums around the state,” said Jeff Caldwell, McDonnell’s press secretary.
He noted, for example, that the Science Museum of Virginia’s board has 15 members.
Redd said he thinks having a 25-member board has not been a problem for the museum. However, general thinking among government and nonprofit entities is that having such a large board is ineffective, he noted.
Redd cited one potential problem, though.
“When you have members who have to drive to Martinsville” from elsewhere in the state, he said, “it hampers you in trying to get a quorum” at meetings.
The board will discuss its revamp when it meets at 9 a.m. Saturday at the museum on Starling Avenue in Martinsville. However, Redd said the board essentially has no input because the changes will be handled in Richmond.
“Our board does not control who is appointed” to it, he said, so “there is really no action for the board to take” on the matter.
Legislation says the governor will appoint the board members, who then will be confirmed by the General Assembly.
The Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office will be involved in revising the board’s composition, Redd said. He mentioned that the board so far has not received any details from that office on the transition.
Emily Barrett, the office’s director of appointments, could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.
Most state-operated museums nationwide are in metropolitan communities and/or capital cities. The natural history museum has been in Martinsville since it was founded as a private organization in the mid-1980s.
Traditionally, it has had a fairly large number of board members from the Martinsville area, but there is no set number required. Redd said he has no idea whether any of the eight current local members will be unseated.
“We always want to make sure we serve the local area, but we (ultimately) serve a statewide constituency,” he said. “We’re not a Martinsville museum; we’re a state museum.”