History Colorado Announces Interim Leaders While Board Looks for New CEO

The David Tryba-designedf History Colorado Center earned raves; the exhibits inside, not so much.EXPAND
The David Tryba-designedf History Colorado Center earned raves; the exhibits inside, not so much.
Tryba Associates

A week after History Colorado CEO Ed Nichols announced that he was retiring, History Colorado announced the transition leadership that will guide the organization as its board of directors — a new board appointed by Governor John Hickenlooper in July — hunts for a new CEO.  Robert E. Musgraves, the former present of Titanium Metals Corporation, who joined the board in 2014 and was reappointed by Hickenlooper, and Steve Turner, History Colorado’s current vice president of preservation, will co-lead the team, working closely with the board to "implement the board's budget plan to ensure History Colorado’s long-term financial stability and continued implementation of the organization’s mission," according to an announcement from History Colorado. 

A routine legislative audit of History Colorado released last summer had raised some major concerns over the organization's long-term financial stability, as well as its governance. Although History Colorado is a stage agency under the Colorado Department of Higher Education, it's also a charitable organization, and its board set-up was not only unique to the department, it was unwieldy. Legislation passed earlier this spring called for a new board, with nine members to be appointment by the governor. That new board started meeting this summer, and in mid-July, all 130 staffers of History Colorado — both at the History Colorado Center in Denver and at facilities and museums across the state — were offered the options of early retirement/buyouts or furloughs. The deadline for that offer is August 31, but several top officials, Nichols included, have already announced their departure.

“We are deeply appreciative of Ed’s tremendous service over the past eight years and the incredible transformation of the organization under his leadership. We are grateful that Ed will assist with transition,” said Ann Alexander Pritzlaff, chair of the board of directors, in a statement. “A national search for a new CEO to lead the organization through the next chapter will begin immediately.”

In 2008, Turner joined what was then known as the Colorado State Historical Society (it was rebranded as History Colorado in 2012, when the new History Colorado Center opened) as director of the State Historical Fund grants program; he's directed the organization’s preservation activities for the past six years. When I sat down with Pritzlaff and Nichols on Monday to talk about the changes at History Colorado, Pritzlaff pointed out that Turner had been responsible for giving away $9 million in grants last year, and even as History Colorado does some belt-tightening, the grant amount — funded by gaming revenues — will not be decreased. She also noted that the audit had looked at 400 grants, and found no problems with any of them.

“Bob and Steve are perfectly suited to lead us during this time,” Pritzlaff continued in her statement. “Bob successfully led several history organizations through periods of transition, while Steve is a highly regarded leader in his field with demonstrated ability to manage government agencies. History Colorado has a bright future ahead.”

A bright future, even as it celebrates the past. Today Nichols will join Lieutenant Governor Joe Garcia at the opening day of the Colorado State Fair for the 29th annual Centennial Farms Celebration.  Since 1986, History Colorado, the Colorado Department of Agriculture and the Colorado State Fair have partnered on the Centennial Farms Program honoring Colorado farms that have been in the same family for a century; now the Colorado Tourism Office has joined in, too. 

Twenty-two Colorado families who have owned and operated their farm or ranch for at least a hundred years will be honored at 4 p.m. today at the State Fair in Pueblo. Go to the Colorado Farms Centennial website for a fascinating look at these early farms; find more details at historycolorado.org.

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