Jennifer Kilmer, the ’s executive director and chief fundraiser in the drive to build its new state-of-the-art facility, will leave next month to take the top job at the Washington State Historical Society.
She will replace Executive Director David Nicandri, 62, who will retire on Oct. 7 after 25 years in the post.
“I love the Harbor History Museum and I have so enjoyed working here with our board and our staff,” said Kilmer, 37, who confirmed word of her appointment to Patch last Friday afternoon. “I’m excited about the future but it will be difficult to leave.”
Kilmer, who is married to State Sen. Derek Kilmer, wasn’t looking to leave. But Nicandri’s recent decision to retire opened up an opportunity that she said “literally only comes around once in a blue moon.”
“It offers a lot of exciting possibilities and challenges for me and is a natural next step for me professionally,” she added.
Kilmer will depart one year after the grand opening of the 15,000 square-foot museum facility on Harborview Drive that is considered the crowning achievement of her eight-year tenure as executive director. She headed the five-year capital campaign that raised the $12 million needed to get the museum built.
She has also directed the Harbor Museum’s recent efforts to expand community interest and engagement through arts and cultural events. Splash, which showcases local artists, and its co-sponsorship of the are examples of that effort.
“Jennifer has done a great job and she will be a loss to the museum,” said museum President Frank Ruffo, adding that he highly recommended her for the position when contacted as a reference.
Gov. Christine Gregoire approved Kilmer’s selection after Society trustees voted unanimously to appoint her on Aug. 9. Sen. Kilmer resigned from the Society's board of governors when his wife became a finalist in the search in order to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest.
As the new executive director, Kilmer will direct the Historical Society’s educational, research and affiliate support programs statewide as well as oversee the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma and the State Capital Museum in Olympia.
Joining the Society on Oct. 1, Kilmer will be taking on her new post at a fiscally stressful time. The non-profit institution is also a state agency and like other agencies has been hard hit by budget cutbacks in Olympia.
Kilmer hopes to address that by building private sources of funding. “One thing I will focus on is expanding support for the institution from the private sector so we can weather the ups and downs of the economy and ensure we have stable funding,” she said.
Another goal will be to strengthen outreach and support programs for the Society’s affiliate museums across the state and to expand statewide community interaction through smartphone and other technology applications.
"Jennifer brings to the state an outstanding set of qualities, experience, and impressive academic credentials," said Society Trustee Charles Bingham, in a prepared statement. "I think she’s the perfect successor to David Nicandri and has the ability to enhance the society’s stellar reputation and expand opportunities for everyone to benefit from what the Society has to offer."
Board members for the Harbor Museum will meet this week to determine its selection criteria and how to move forward in finding a replacement for Kilmer.
“Jennifer is leaving on the 25th of September so we want to move as quickly as possible,” said Ruffo. “But we also want to do our due diligence and make sure we get the right candidate for the job.”