Set to fail? New ANA executive director in unenviable position

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Published : 05/07/13
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The editorial I wrote for the June 18, 2012, issue of Coin World has proven true: The position of American Numismatic Association executive director is truly the hardest-to-keep job in coins.

What kind of person will be willing to take on a challenge where at least four executive directors in the past two decades have left with professional reputations tarnished by press releases, lawsuits and nasty back-and-forths unbecoming to a congressionally chartered nonprofit educational organization?

The answer: Kim Kiick, a 31-year veteran of the ANA.

As ANA President Tom Hallenbeck noted in the May 1 press release naming Kiick as executive director, she’s worked closely with eight different ANA Boards over the past 15 years.

She’s also deeply familiar with the hiring — and subsequent firing — of at least three former executive directors: Chris Cipoletti, Larry Shepherd and now, Jeff Shevlin.

At least she arrives at her new position aware of the problems that are currently at the fore of the ANA, along with the challenges of working with an elected nine-member ANA Board of Governors that changes every two years.

Unfortunately, it was not enough for the ANA to quietly let Shevlin’s one-year contract expire at the end of June. Rather, the ANA Board of Governors relieved Shevlin of his duties after just nine months on the job, and then followed this up with a public gesture by issuing a press release on April 26 characterizing Shevlin as “not the right fit to lead the Association going forward.” This press release was timed to come after print press deadlines for both major weekly numismatic publications, and fell during the Central States Numismatic Society annual convention.

Was this really necessary, and how did the press release further the ANA in its educational mission?

Hallenbeck said that the timing was to “stop the rumor mills” and that the ANA tried to “cut ties as nicely as possible” with Shevlin, but Hallenbeck said that the ANA Board and Shevlin could not come to a meeting of the minds on a press release.

One wonders if drawing further attention to the internal conflicts at the ANA is an effective way to usher in a new executive director?

As current ANA governor Greg Lyon posted on a coin collecting message board, there’s significant turnover on the ANA Board with each election. For example only two of the same members were on both the 2001 to 2003 board that hired Cipoletti and the 2007 to 2009 board that fired him. Only three were both on the 2007 board that hired Shepherd and on the current board that fired him.

This frequent turnover for the ANA Board is a double-edged sword. It’s good in that it brings in new ideas, experiences and perspectives. It’s bad in that an executive director is held to rapidly shifting priorities and to nine separate individuals (who compose the collective board of governors).

This ANA election cycle is more important than ever as the ANA’s elected board sets the goals and directs the organization. The executive director serves the ANA Board and the ANA membership. Do you agree with the direction that the ANA is headed? Make your opinion known by voting in the ANA elections.

Will the newly elected ANA Board be as enamored as the current board is with Kiick and allow her to complete her three-year contract, or will it fire her as it has the last three executive directors? Only time will tell. ■

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