TRAVERSE CITY — The History Center of Traverse City board eliminated executive director Bill Kennis’ position in a restructuring move to help the center address a $50,000 budget deficit.
The History Center, housed in the old Carnegie Library building at 322 Sixth Street, now has a full-time curator, a part-time archivist and part-time event planner. Kennis led the nonprofit agency for two years.
“We’re very proud of our place in the community and of the staff and volunteers that have worked so hard to bring us the success that we’ve enjoyed,” Steve Harold, board chairman, said in a Wednesday morning press release. “However, we recognize that change is inevitable and that the organization that chooses to stand still is often the organization that moves backward.”
Kennis brought in or created several new History Center events, including the three-month Building Blocks Lego exhibit and the Magical History Tour.
Museum attendance doubled to 54,000 in 2012, his first full year. Membership also grew about 50 percent to about 300 members, largely because of a membership drive, Harold said.
“We did our best,” said Kennis, who acknowledged “surprise” at his ouster. “I will still support the History Center as a donor or member and I believe in its mission. I think more people know about Traverse City and its history because of our efforts and I’m proud of it.”
Harold said Kennis will move on to new opportunities as the History Center’s board of directors takes a more active role in managing the center.
Kennis worked for other downstate nonprofits and businesses before coming to the History Center. He said he hopes to stay in the area.
Kennis’ annual salary totaled about $52,000. Tuesday was his last day of work after the board decided in closed session to eliminate the position. Harold said he called the closed session because it involved personnel matters.
The History Center has had a continuing deficit problem in recent years, due in part to shrinking city funding. City officials pledged $100,000 for the 2013 operations budget. Even so, the deficit came in just over $50,000, according to a 2013 budget report.
“I saw it as a very serious crisis,” Harold said.
The History Center is in the third year of a three-year lease to manage use of the city-owned Carnegie building. It expires on Dec. 31, 2014. City officials have not committed to additional funding for 2014.
Harold called an emergency meeting Tuesday afternoon to discuss the deficit and other budget matters.
“The board’s next step is to adopt a 2014 budget and discuss other ways to cut expenses and budget items that have “consistently suffered a loss,” Harold said.
He hopes the budget can be kept at under $200,000, which would be a 33 percent drop from over $300,000 budgeted in 2013.