Paul W. Edmondson to Step Down as President and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Spring 2023
Today, Paul Edmondson announced that he has decided to step down as the president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the spring of 2023.
On assuming the role of president and CEO in 2019, Edmondson set out to strengthen the National Trust’s relationships across the preservation community, as well as to redefine that community in the broadest possible way. He also sought to assert a strong national voice articulating the value of historic preservation today.
“We could not have found a better person to lead the organization at such a tumultuous time,” said Jay Clemens, the National Trust Board Chair. “Paul has served with grace, thoughtfulness, and deep experience.”
Edmondson became the ninth president of the National Trust in its 73-year history and oversaw important milestones in broadening its base and impact. Under his leadership, the organization grew its grant-making ability fivefold, enhancing its ability to deliver resources where they could have the greatest impact. Similarly, the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, conceived as a $25-million fund to support preservation of sites connected to Black history, has raised more than $80 million since 2017. During his tenure the National Trust’s conference attracted a cross-section of diverse new participants, a third of them new to the organization.
“I’m proud of the progress we’ve made towards strengthening the National Trust and broadening the preservation movement,” said Edmondson. “I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to lead this crucial effort.”
Edmondson’s role as president and CEO caps a 36-year career at the National Trust that has included his leading the foremost preservation law team in the country, achieving critical work to protect and preserve places across the nation.
“The influence of Paul’s work over the years has been far-reaching, field-defining, and a leading model for preservation,” said Jay Clemens. Clemens will assemble a search committee which will begin the national search for Edmondson’s successor.
Statements from Paul Edmondson and Jay Clemens are available below:
Paul Edmondson's statement on stepping down as president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation
I am writing to let you know that I have shared with the National Trust’s Board that I am planning to step down as President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation this coming spring.
In 2019, when the National Trust’s Board of Trustees asked me to take on the role of president and CEO, I did so with several main goals: to strengthen our relationships across the preservation community—but also to redefine that community in the broadest possible way. To institutionalize the notion that telling the full American story must be a core element of all of the National Trust’s work. To expand our efforts to assert a strong national voice articulating the value and relevancy of historic preservation. And to promote continued innovation and inclusive public engagement at our historic sites. Of course, the pandemic threw another goal in our direction: to maintain a stable operational base for the organization—and not simply to ride out the storm, but to ensure that we had a strong platform for future growth.
Despite the many challenges of the past several years, I am pleased to say that we have made very strong progress towards meeting those goals.
With your support, we advanced the four pillars of our strategic priorities through advocacy, stewardship, and engagement. We expanded the ways in which we deliver resources where they can have the greatest impact, including an annual grant making budget that has grown from $3 million to more than $18 million. The annual tradition of the national conference became virtual and served a cross-section of diverse participants across the nation as it never has before, with this year’s PastForward attracting more than 2,000 registrants, 30% of whom were first-time attendees. Through the conference—and through all of our work—we have engaged and inspired Americans who value their history but never felt embraced as part of the preservation community. The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, conceived as a $25 million fund to support preservation of Black History sites, has raised more than $80 million since 2017. With our Board’s support, our Historic Sites are celebrated as assets that are central to our work as a preservation leader, and have demonstrated that they are places of creativity, energy, and connection, both nationally and within their own communities.
While the organization is well-positioned for success, there is a great deal more work to do, and that work will require growth to sustain current programs and to create new initiatives. It will also be a multi-year effort, requiring new strategies and new thinking.
Given this backdrop, this seems to me to be the right time to make room for new leadership to take the organization to the next stage—towards what I am confident will be an exciting and successful future. This was a difficult decision, but after a 36-year career at the National Trust I feel that a change is in order—both for me, and for the organization. I have assured our Board chair Jay Clemens that I will stay on as long as I am needed and can be helpful in this transition, but otherwise will plan to step down in the spring, with a timetable agreeable for all. As noted by Jay in his message below, he plans to move forward to establish a search committee to identify a new president.
In the meantime, I offer my thanks to the National Trust’s Board for giving me the opportunity to lead the organization, and for their confidence, guidance, and support. I am deeply grateful for the hard work of the incredibly dedicated staff members of this organization for seeing that we have arrived in such a strong position despite the many challenges we faced in recent times. And, particularly, I am filled with gratitude for the support of the membership of the National Trust Council which has been so critical to the work that we do every day to preserve historic places and to make a better future. And your personal support has meant the world to me.
With deep appreciation,
Paul W. Edmondson, President and CEO
Jay Clemens, National Trust Board Chair, on Paul Edmondson's transition:
A few years ago, the Board of the National Trust was faced with an important leadership transition which required a president and CEO who was steadfast, intelligent, and deeply rooted in preservation. Paul Edmondson embodies each of these qualities. We could not have found a better person to lead the organization during such a tumultuous and ever-changing time. Paul has served with grace, thoughtfulness, and experience.
Paul’s decision to step down, like so much that Paul does, was made with an eye toward the organization’s next era. I am grateful to have had such a considered and respected partner in this role.
I must also acknowledge that Paul’s impending departure not only represents a transition from his role as president and CEO, but also the transition of his long tenure of service with the National Trust. I would like to thank him for the many years in which he led the foremost legal advocacy team for historic preservation in the country, as well as built the preservation easement program of the National Trust, not to mention directing the variety of corporate legal services needed to operate a complex nonprofit organization. The influence of Paul’s work over the years cannot be viewed in small measures, for its impact has been far-reaching, field-defining, and a leading model for preservation.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I am in the process of assembling a search committee with the important task of finding and recruiting our 10th president. One of the first orders of business for the committee will be to identify a search firm to assist us in carrying out this important task. In the meantime, knowing that there is a great deal of momentum in our programmatic work, I very much appreciate that Paul will continue his strong leadership of the organization and will be a part of assisting with the transition.
Many thanks and best regards,
Jay Clemens, Chair, Board of Trustees
The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places.
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