After 13 years at the helm, Executive Director Jim DeMersman has announced he will retire from Pleasanton's Museum on Main in the fall.
With the transition planning already in the works behind the scenes, board officials have selected the museum's director of education, Sarah Schaefer, to succeed DeMersman as the next permanent executive director.
"I am pleased with the progress that we have made as a team of board, staff, city staff, volunteers and community," DeMersman said in a statement. "We were able to build a new vision on a solid foundation built by the original founders of the organization to make this a place where the entire community can feel welcome."
DeMersman assisted in the renovation of the downtown museum's permanent history gallery, combining state-of-the-art digital technology with traditional objects and graphics to tell a more complete, accessible and inclusive history of Pleasanton.
Additionally, Museum on Main membership and annual visitation has grown under his tenure, assisted by the museum's award-winning Ed Kinney "An Afternoon/Evening With ..." flagship program and a more robust temporary exhibit program, which has brought traveling exhibits on topics relevant to the life and history of Pleasanton and the Tri-Valley, officials said.
"I will greatly miss the Pleasanton community and all of the people who have helped us achieve this vision," DeMersman said.
"In retirement, my husband and I will be returning to Palm Springs, which was our first home together," he added. "I am looking forward to going exploring and hiking in the Indian canyons that will be close to our new home, volunteering for the local historical society, the new Aqua Caliente Museum in downtown Palm Springs and the Living Desert in Palm Desert. We also anticipate spending more time traveling in Europe."
The Museum on Main's Board of Directors Succession Planning Committee recommended Schaefer as its first-choice candidate in February, and the full board appointed her to become the new executive director effective in November.
"While we thought about opening up the search, the committee and executive team felt that with such a qualified candidate in-house, it would best serve the needs of the museum to move forward with Sarah as our new director," Board President Linda Garbarino said in a statement.
"She is eminently qualified, knows the Pleasanton community and shares Jim's passion for teamwork and making sure that Pleasanton has a first-rate museum to be proud of," Garbarino said. "Sarah will be working closely with Jim over the next few months to learn more of the intricacies of the day-to-day management."
In her new leadership role, Schaefer said she is "looking forward to continuing the work Jim has set out: to make the Museum on Main a true community museum, a place where those who have been in our community their whole lives, those who have just arrived, and everyone in between feels welcome and important to Pleasanton's ongoing story."
"We have accomplished so much under Jim's leadership, using the museum's most recent strategic plan as our guide," she told the Weekly. "We have completely overhauled our main exhibit space, increased visitation, and created programs and exhibits that inspire our community to connect with us and each other."
"Moving forward, I intend to focus first and foremost on working to update the museum's strategic plan with the help of our board, our membership, and the broader community. I will also work to improve the museum's capacity for storing both physical and digital collections," she added. "Every day we are making history in this community and we need to have the space to preserve those stories and artifacts for generations to come."
Schaefer has served as the museum's education director since August 2016 and has been responsible for the museum's school and public education programs, including Preschool Reading Time, Family Days, the Ed Kinney series, Ghost Walk, "Discussion With" programs related to exhibits and school tours, senior center programs and walking tours.
"Under Jim's leadership we have accomplished so much and really brought the museum into the 21st century, but there is still more to be done," Schaefer said. "I feel honored to have worked under Jim's leadership for so long and while I am eager to continue the path he has set for the museum; I am also looking forward to working with the board and the community to navigate the future of the museum."
Schaefer has previously worked at the Computer History Museum, Oakland Aviation Museum, Alaska State Museum's Simon Paneak Memorial Museum, Great Basic Galena Creek Visitor Center and North Lake Tahoe Historical Society Museum. She holds a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Oregon, a master's in museum studies from JFK University and an MBA from JFK University in Berkeley.
DeMersman will remain as executive director until Nov. 4 when Schaefer will assume the role.
The museum is currently seeking a new director of education: the deadline for applications is June 30. Visit www.museumonmain.org for more information.