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Theodore Roosevelt group seeks new leader

Sagamore Hill was the home of President Theodore

Sagamore Hill was the home of President Theodore Roosevelt from 1885 until his death in 1919. Called the "Summer White House" during Roosevelt's presidency, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (Dec. 3, 2011) Credit: Carl Corry

The Oyster Bay-based Theodore Roosevelt Association, which has gone through several chief executives over the past decade, is again on the hunt for a new leader.

The association has decided not to renew Terrence Brown's contract after two years. Brown successfully reorganized operations and reduced costs after the high-cost failure of a plan to build a museum in Oyster Bay by his predecessor, said Tweed Roosevelt of Boston, president of the TRA and a great-grandson of the 26th U.S. president.

But Roosevelt said the organization now needs someone who can boost fundraising, raise membership from the current 1,350, and increase programming geared to young people. Brown will stay on until a new director is selected.

"Terry was hired to bring us through a period of cost-cutting and retrenching," Roosevelt said. "He's done an excellent job with that."

But, he added: "It's now time for us to go in a different direction, which requires different kinds of skills. What we are looking for is somebody who can help build programs, build membership and raise funds."

Roosevelt has said that the TRA focused on saving sites such as Teddy Roosevelt's birthplace in Manhattan and his home at Sagamore Hill in Cove Neck, as well as promoting scholarship. "What we're going to focus on now is using TR's ideals as they apply to modern youth and what . . . we can do with young people," he said.

"I hope they're successful in their next chapter," Brown said. "It was a challenge given what I was presented in terms of existing office and programming and volunteers, but we got the job done."

The 92-year-old organization, which promotes Teddy Roosevelt and scholarship about him, has had a hard time keeping a director in place since John Allen Gable, who held the post for more than 30 years, died in 2005.

In 2007, Boston University scholar Cathal Nolan gave up the job after several months. In 2008, Edward J. Renehan Jr. was sentenced to prison for stealing historic letters from the organization.

Then James Bruns, head of the Atlanta History Center, was hired to create a Roosevelt museum. He was fired when that never got off the ground. Brown had previously led the Manhattan-based Society of Illustrators for 24 years.

"This ongoing turmoil is not good," said Jim Summerville, a Tennessee state senator who served on the TRA board from 1999 until about five years ago.

Roosevelt agreed, adding, "Now we're reinventing ourselves in a different way."

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