Sharesse von Strauss has been relieved of her duties as director of the Northern Gila County Historical Society.
The decision was made at a meeting of NGCHS board of directors on Thursday, March 11, according to President Tom McGuigan.
"We as a board looked at our financial picture and our treasurer, John Peel, said, ‘We need to do something,' and of course the only paid position we have is the director," McGuigan said. "So we voted to go to an all-volunteer organization."
McGuigan emphasized that the decision was based solely on the society's economic situation.
"It had nothing to do with performance or anything like that," he said. "It was strictly the financial picture we needed to deal with."
Von Strauss, who has held the position for seven years, was the society's one and only director.
"It is going to be a very different situation in that there will no longer be one person involved with all aspects of the operation," she said. "But I think the quality of people on that board will take up the slack and I am certainly on call."
"The board will take more responsibility, of course, and we have a lot of good volunteers," he said. "So we'll just pick up the slack where needed. Everybody is going to have to fill in and do something to make up the difference."
At a subsequent board meeting yesterday (Thursday), the NGCHS began the process of assessing the future of specific programs and events. McGuigan said no cuts are planned at this time.
"Those are some things we are going to be looking at, of course," he said. "We may scale back the newsletter, but those are all things that are in the talking stages at this point."
Museums everywhere, especially small ones, are struggling with economic issues according to Dick Wolfe, president of the Zane Grey Cabin Foundation.
"All the museums in this country are in financial straits and that was their one biggest expense, so they had to bite the bullet I'm afraid," Wolfe said.
Tourism in the Rim country has been impacted by the Rodeo-Chediski Fire and the lingering drought, putting even more stress on the Rim Country Museum and the Museum of Rim Country Archaeology, both operated by the NGCHS.
"Small museums are just being ripped apart," von Strauss said. "It is the economy, and we are in even a more exceptional situation (because) we have the forest.
"People (used to) come up to the cool pines in the summer. That is not a reality anymore We have had two huge fires and we are in a drought situation."
Von Strauss, who plans to stay in Payson, emphasized the value of the two museums, and of the other events and activities under the purview of the NGCHS.
"I hope residents of the Rim country understand the importance of an educational institution such as the two museums operated by the historical society," she said.
"We have after-school programs, we have a library that is open for research, we have accomplished a tremendous amount in seven years, and we have to deal with the economic situation."
The Northern Gila County Historical Society, a nonprofit corporation founded in 1986, is operated by an 11-person board of directors elected by its 286 members.
Applications to join the society are available at the Rim Country Museum. Annual cost is $25 for an an individual and $35 for a family, both of which include free admission to the two museums, a bi-monthly newsletter, and invitations to private museum events. A number of membership clubs are also available.
The society can always use more people to work on the different events and activities under its purview.
Anyone interested in volunteering can call President Tom McGuigan at (928) 474-4140 or (928) 474-3483.