President’s Column – Summer 2013

Mark Foutch

A lot has been happening this Spring, and it feels like we’re really getting traction toward a number of the Society’s goals. A few examples:

Our absolutely outstanding website, which only a few months ago began to show signs of collapse due to its aging online platform, actually disappeared for a couple of weeks. But it was our great good luck that volunteer Thad Curtz was already in the process of migrating our site’s content to a more modern, more secure, and more adaptable platform. Thad, working with OHS Web Content Manager Deb Ross and Secretary Anne Kilgannon, put in many, many hours during this very detailed process, and while they were at it, redesigned the website.  Deb is busy now restoring the links within our site and those to related websites, which will take some time. But the bottom line is, the OHS website is back, and better than ever. The new platform helps our website show up closer to the top of Web searches and so the number of persons visiting our site and the number of hits has already multiplied significantly. Our Board approved a Certificate of Appreciation for Thad, along with a complimentary five-year membership in the Society.

Remember at our January meeting, we had to pass the hat to collect money for professional web services? It wasn’t enough to hire professional help, but Thad Curtz’ volunteer work helped us avoid that cost. Still, it’s clear that we need reliably-available expertise to maintain our site’s technical integrity.  So the Board authorized Deb Ross to contract with the Williams Group for this. Coincidentally, recognizing the value of our website and our other activities to the City of Olympia’s historic preservation efforts, the City and OHS are negotiating a contract for services.  The City now benefits from our excellent online presence, and avoids the cost of doing its own.  The contract, in turn, would insure the service’s reliability by making it possible for the Society to fund routine site maintenance while accumulating an emergency fund that might also be used to expand and improve our website. It’s a win-win for both parties. Meanwhile, the Board has directed Treasurer Ralph Blankenship to establish a website maintenance fund on our financial reports to make sure the City’s contract dollars and your January website donations are reserved for that purpose.

The Board established two new committees to recommend actions as we anticipate significant developments. First, the Finance Committee (Ralph Blankenship, Vice President Tim Ransom, and advisor Debra Jackson) got Board approval for its recommendations for safeguarding Roger Easton’s bequest when it arrives. We will deposit the money at Olympia Federal Savings and then distribute it among interest bearing, Federally insured accounts in the local area. Also, the Finance Committee is working on our application to the Internal Revenue Service for tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Revenue Code. Clearly OHS qualifies for that status. Another report: the new Bylaws Committee has finished its first draft of a major revision to the OHS Bylaws. The new version, if adopted by the membership at our next annual meeting, would consolidate functions and duties, eliminate an anomaly or two, and position our Bylaws specifically to address questions in the 501(c)(3) application.

Now, here’s something hasn’t happened for quite a while: We actually have two excellent, and early, Board candidates! Debra Jackson, from Olympia Federal Savings, has already brought much-needed banking and financial expertise to the Board. For the past few months she has been meeting in a nonvoting advisory capacity with the Board and the Finance Committee, and has been tremendously helpful as we anticipate Roger’s bequest and apply for tax-exempt status. Not coincidentally, Olympia Fed has joined OHS as a corporate member. Also, former Secretary of State and OHS member Sam Reed has expressed an interest in joining the Board. He attended the June Board meeting to get up to speed. Debra and Sam are expected to apply formally to our Nominating Committee later in the year using our new application form; the Nominating Committee will present a slate of Board candidates at the annual meeting early in December. With Bylaw amendments and Board elections already on that meeting’s agenda, OHS members should plan to be there. We’ll need a quorum for sure!

To top off all this good news, a brand-new University of Oregon history graduate, Marisa Merkel, contacted us offering to serve as a volunteer intern! OHS Secretary Anne Kilgannon is working with her to craft a wide-ranging experience, one that will be useful to OHS while enhancing her resume for graduate school and future employment in the field. Welcome, Marisa!

Did you know that Olympia has its own Underground Railroad story from pre-Civil War days? That will be the topic of authors Lorraine McConaghy and Judith Bentley’s presentation at our September meeting. Details to come; watch for it!

Finally, some maritime heritage news: the 1909 motor yacht Lotus, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Olympia Heritage Register, is expected to be here for Harbor Days, and perhaps for a couple of weeks beforehand. She’ll be open for tours and cruises. Once a local feature, she’s now docked at Port Townsend. Also, we hear that the restored steam-powered Mosquito Fleet passenger boat Virginia V will also come from Seattle for Harbor Days.

Meanwhile, enjoy Summer in Olympia!

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