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Smaller VMNH board holds first meeting

Sunday, November 18, 2012

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

The percentage of local representation on the Virginia Museum of Natural History’s board of trustees has not changed much, despite the fact that the board has been cut by 10 members.

Earlier this year, the General Assembly voted to reduce the state-supported museum in Martinsville’s board from 25 to 15 members as part of efforts to make state government panels more effective.

But the board had only 21 members at that time. Of that number, eight — or 21 percent — were from the Martinsville area.

The downsized board met for the first time Saturday. It now has 15 seats, including one vacant spot. Board Chairman Sammy Redd of Martinsville said that seat is in the process of being filled.

Of the 14 current members, five — or 36 percent — live in the Martinsville area. Along with Redd, they are Mark Crabtree, Mervyn King, Lee Lester and Monica Monday. All five were on the board before it was downsized.

Current trustees also include Missy Neff Gould and Christina Draper, both of Richmond; Janet Scheid of Vinton; James Severt II of Washington (formerly of Martinsville); Stephen Walker of Charlotte Courthouse; and Lisa Lyle Wu of Arlington, all of whom were on the board before it was trimmed; and Brian Bates of Dillwyn, Gene Smith of Brookneal and Mary Voigt of Barhamsville, each of whom is new.

Redd said he understands the state, in deciding who to take off the board, for the most part removed people not serving their second terms.

The board approved resolutions of appreciation for former members LeAnn Binger, Nancy Fitzgerald, Novel Martin, J. James Murray Jr., Kimble Reynolds Jr. and Philip Sprinkle. The latter two live in the Martinsville area.

The museum was founded in the early 1980s in Martinsville by city resident Dr. Noel Boaz. Much of its support traditionally has been from area residents and businesses but because it is a state-run institution, the museum aims to reach out more to people statewide through its two-year plan, called “A Museum Without Walls.”

The plan includes steps such as increasing the number of natural history education programs conducted statewide and creating a traveling exhibits program, a document shows.

Along those lines, the museum has put an exhibit at the Rockfish Valley Natural History Center in Nelson County and has a joint exhibit with the Danville Science Center that will travel across the state.

The museum is considering opening a branch in Waynesboro, a city known for having a variety of nature-related outdoor activities. A feasibility study has been launched, and museum officials hope to receive its findings in time to present them at the February board meeting.

Previous branches of the museum in Charlottesville and Blacksburg were closed in recent years due to budget cuts. The museum has educators based in the Charlottesville and Tidewater areas now but no branches there.

VMNH Executive Director Joe Keiper said he thinks the time may be right to launch a new branch “as a real opportunity to expand our mission” to be more visible statewide.


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