Director – Arizona Museum of Natural History, Mesa (2022)

March 17, 2022

Organization

The Arizona Museum of Natural History (AZMNH) is the premier natural history museum in Arizona, dedicated to inspiring wonder, respect, and understanding of the natural and cultural history of the Southwest. Founded in 1977 in the former Mesa City Hall, it is the only natural history museum in the Greater Phoenix area. Originally known as the Mesa Southwest Museum, the museum had a modest number of Arizona artifacts in a historical building designed by Lester and Mahoney in 1937 and was funded by the Works Progress Administration. The space has been expanded twice and a new wing was constructed in 2000. The main complex is nestled in the heart of downtown Mesa. It spans 80,000 square feet, with 46,000 square feet dedicated to the exhibition of the collection, which is comprised of more than 68,000 objects of history and art, natural history, and anthropology. The AZMNH hosts approximately 150,000 visitors each year (pre-pandemic) downtown and at the Mesa Grande Cultural Park.

Stepping into the lobby, visitors are greeted by a Columbian Mammoth. Permanent exhibitions include Dinosaur Hall, featuring an exciting variety of fossils, dinosaur sculptures, and a three-story indoor waterfall on Dinosaur Mountain; Native Cultures of Western North America; and Mesoamerica and South America Gallery. Devoted to the ancient Sonoran Desert dwellers, the Southwest Cultures Gallery is currently in the process of a major renovation in close collaboration with local tribal communities. Taking a voyage through the timeline of the cosmos, the Origins Gallery explores major events in the history of Earth. Two long-term exhibitions recently opened—Ologies: The Science of Anthropology and Paleontology and 75,000,000 B.C., which explores the geology and fauna of southern Arizona and northern Sonora 75 million years ago. The museum designs and fabricates the majority of its exhibitions across all collections areas: paleontology, archeology, and natural history.

The Paleontology Department explores, excavates, records, prepares, conserves, and researches fossil resources. Working with federal, state, and university agencies, the AZMNH is a sanctioned repository for specimens amassed from State, Bureau of Land Management, National Forest, and Fish and Wildlife lands throughout the state. The AZMNH’s Archaeology and Anthropology staff conduct research and create exhibitions on indigenous cultures and the archaeology of Southern Arizona.

The Mesa Grande Cultural Park is an active Hohokam archeological site purchased in the 1980s and opened as an educational and research facility in 2013. Sirrine House is a historic home under the care of the AZMNH. Built in 1896, this Victorian-era building contains period furnishings with objects on loan from the Mesa Historical Museum. Sirrine House is awaiting renovations and not currently open to the public.

The Arts and Culture Department serves as the oversight body for the three City-owned arts and culture venues: AZMNH, i.d.e.a. Museum, and the Mesa Arts Center, which includes the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum. The department provides centralized budgeting, capital planning, and facilities management. The AZMNH Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to supporting the museum through advocacy, fundraising, and through hundreds of volunteers working in exhibitions, education, and special events. In Fiscal Year 2019, total reported revenue was $1.0 million, with $111,350 from contributions and grants. Total expenses were $1.6 million. The remainder of annual expenses are supported by the City’s General Fund. While income declined dramatically during closure, it has rapidly returned and is now matching or exceeding pre-COVID levels. The current staff includes 14 full-time and five part-time positions, supported by city resources. A Membership Coordinator and Store Manager/staff are employees of the AZMNH Foundation.

Community

The rich history of the City of Mesa dates back to the ancestral Sonoran Desert peoples who inhabited the region more than 2,000 years ago and whose descendants still live there today. The ancient Sonora Desert dwellers raised hundreds of miles of hand dug canals that irrigated more than 110,000 acres and transformed the desert area into an agricultural oasis. Mesa was settled by Mormon pioneers, who established their first settlement in 1877. The municipality of Mesa was founded in 1878.

Mesa is the 37th largest city in the United States and the third largest city in Arizona. With a population of more than 504,000 people, Mesa is larger in population than Atlanta, Miami, and Minneapolis and is 133 square miles in size. Surrounded by the Sonoran Desert, Mesa is just 20 minutes from Phoenix and bordered by Tempe on the west, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community on the north, Chandler and Gilbert on the south, and Apache Junction on the east. Located in Maricopa County, Mesa is part of the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale Metropolitan Statistical Area of about 5 million people—the 11th largest in the United States.

Mesa’s footprint is largely made up of residential areas, with a modest but growing downtown and significant expanding business districts. Mesa’s downtown is experiencing a resurgence, with new residential growth fueled by excellent cultural resources, an active arts community, and a feeling of authenticity. Downtown Mesa retains its small-town charm, with an expanding array of independent retail, restaurants, and drinking establishments, in addition to an enthusiastic group of downtown activists and business owners. The downtown area is an urban redevelopment center with more than 19,800 daytime employees, 3,200 residents, and more than 2.5 million visitors who conduct business, explore, shop, and enjoy the area. There are 36 restaurants, 550 businesses, more than 60 hotels in the area, and eight casinos located near Mesa. A labor force of 1.4 million people is within a 30-minute drive. Arizona is also home to four major league sports teams and several minor league and semi-professional teams.

In spring 2022, Arizona State University (ASU) will open its first two facilities in downtown Mesa (there is a full ASU campus in East Mesa). The Sidney Poitier New American Film School and the Innovation Studios will bring state-of-the-art film production and digital technologies to the heart of downtown. Existing partnerships between ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the City’s Arts and Culture Department, including the AZMNH, are long-standing and in the process of being augmented with new projects and collaborations. Mesa features 10 nearby colleges and universities, including ASU, Mesa Community College, Pima Medical Institute, Benedictine University, Arizona College, Carrington College, and A.T. Still University. Student enrollment in Mesa tops 40,000 for state and for-profit institutions of higher education. Mesa is also home to Mesa Public Schools, the largest district in the state, with 84 schools serving more than 64,500 K-12 students.

Residents enjoy 296 days of sunshine each year. Mesa is famously known for its wonderful climate, surrounding natural resources, and breathtaking views of Red Mountain and the Superstition Mountains. Easily accessible and served by two airports, Mesa is a laid-back metropolis that is conducive to indoor and outdoor points of interest and activities. Enjoying hot summers and mild winters, outdoor enthusiasts can explore boundless hiking trails, two rivers, and three lakes. Mesa’s parklands encompass more than 2,280 acres within the city limits and the city is home to several championship golf courses.

Sources: visitmesa,com, downtownmesa,com, mpsaz.org

Position Summary

A senior member of the City of Mesa’s Arts and Culture Department, the Director will set a compelling vision and provide clear direction in support of AZMNH’s mission and goals during a period of growth and change. Committed to both continuous improvement in the visitor experience, care of the collections, ongoing research, and enhanced relationships with staff and City government, the Director will possess advanced knowledge of innovation in the principles and practices of museum management. They will ensure an inclusive process in the formulation and implementation of the strategic vision for the museum while managing the budget and growing a dynamic staff. They will manage complex projects and teams ensuring deadlines and objectives are met. Actively engaged in the community, this role is responsible for cultivating relationships on the local, state, and national levels with regard to fundraising and securing support for exhibitions. The Director will serve and engage the culturally diverse urban community while raising the profile of the AZMNH and maximizing resources of physical space, personnel, and finances.

Role and Responsibilities

Administrative Leadership and Planning

  • Guide and ensure the implementation of an inclusive strategic planning progress that evaluates the core principals, assesses the AZMNH’s critical and long-term needs, and establishes clear goals and priorities.
  • Develop annual work plans that organize and direct the activities of the AZMNH’s buildings and personnel to ensure successful daily operations and the broader goals of the Arts and Culture Department and City.
  • Provide leadership for the AZMNH’s curatorial, educational, and preservation programs, including oversight of exhibitions, research, and collections.
  • Prepare and present museum documentation and management reports to the City and key stakeholders.
  • Ensure compliance with standard operating procedures, federal regulations (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Antiquities and Archaeological Resources Protection Acts), State of Arizona regulations (repatriation), and American Association of Museums guidelines.
  • Exercise initiative and judgment in the improvement, development, and conduct of AZMNH programs within the context of the City’s Code of Ethics and the AZMNH’s mission statement.

Revenue Enhancement and Financial Management

  • Develop, administer, and monitor the annual budget in collaboration with the Arts and Culture Department, providing regular reports as needed.
  • Collaborate with the AZMNH Foundation to identify and cultivate relationships with donors and community partners to support museum programs and activities.
  • Partner with the revenue enhancement efforts of the Arts and Culture Department to support overall revenue goals.
  • Oversee the administration of grants awarded to the AZMNH and associated programs.
  • Conduct special information tours for members of the press, citizen groups, and donors with regard to publicity and fundraising.
  • Secure donations and loans and support fundraising and special events in the fields of natural history and social sciences.

Staff Relations, Teambuilding, and Community Engagement

  • Develop and manage a growing and diverse staff with a unified sense of direction and set performance goals and objectives.
  • Improve the visitor experience to increase attendance, support membership goals, and ensure customer satisfaction.
  • Establish organizational processes to prioritize and assign work, resolve procedural issues, and support cross-departmental team coordination and decision making.
  • Manage senior team and participate in department meetings and team brainstorming sessions as needed.
  • Establish and maintain effective internal and external working relationships, including public groups, community stakeholders, and the media.
  • Interact with citizen groups, business leaders, and community organizations to establish and maintain productive working relationships and rapport.
  • Serve as a liaison between the AZMNH, Department of Arts and Culture staff, AZMNH Foundation, and community interest groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Mesa Association, and Visit Mesa (Mesa Convention and Tourism Bureau).
  • Communicate effectively with the public, other City employees, vendors, management, contractors, federal and state agencies, media, other museums, public officials, and museum volunteers to administer AZMNH programs.
  • Attend meetings, give lectures, inspect off-site facilities, meet with donors, and monitor outreach sites and excavations.
  • Represent the AZMNH with national, state, and local professional organizations in order to enhance the museum’s involvement in and commitment to the community as both a resource and a provider.

Traits and Characteristics

The Director will be a collaborative, diplomatic leader who appreciates others. They will be receptive to new ideas and ways of working that increase cost-effectiveness and enhance participation and engagement of staff, visitors, and volunteers. With the highest ethical standards and a thorough understanding of the AZMNH’s mission, the Director will demonstrate transparent leadership that encourages thoughtful planning and problem solving, leading to results.

Other key competencies include:

  • Personal Accountability – The aptitude to accept responsibility for one’s own actions and results, apply feedback in self-evaluation, and envision new possibilities in individual presentation.
  • Diplomacy – The ability to thoughtfully navigate sensitive and thought-provoking issues in a manner that displays awareness, respect, and receptiveness to differences, while maintaining relationships.
  • Leadership and Teamwork – The capacity to articulate a vision and create a sense of purpose and direction for internal and external stakeholders, build trust by demonstrating respect and integrity, and create an environment where team members are appreciated and supported, enabling their success.
  • Planning and Organizing – The agility to traverse traditional systems while forming realistic action plans that prioritize work, assess variables and risks, allow for recalibration, lead to increased efficiency, and minimize unproductive ways of work.

Qualifications

Qualified applicants will have passion and knowledge of the sciences and demonstrated progressively responsible museum experience, including budget and staff supervision, preferably in the public sector. A master’s degree or higher from an accredited college or university in museum studies, social science, natural history, or a closely related field is required. Extensive (five or more years) progressively responsible experience in the organization and management of a natural history, anthropology, and/or history museum, preferably in the public sector and considerable (three to five years) supervisory experience with both professional and support staff are essential. The ideal candidate will be a clear communicator and comfortable presenter who is able to build high-performing teams. All employees of the City of Mesa are expected to uphold and exhibit the City’s shared employee values of knowledge, respect, and integrity.

Compensation and Benefits

The City of Mesa offers a competitive salary, with a negotiable range of $100,000 to $124,000 anticipated for this position. A comprehensive benefits package includes excellent health insurance options, life insurance, paid time off, paid holidays, participation in the Arizona State Retirement System, and professional development opportunities.

Applications and Inquiries

To submit a cover letter and resume with a summary of demonstrable accomplishments (electronic submissions preferred), please click here or visit artsconsulting.com/employment. For questions or general inquiries about this job opportunity, please contact:

Ms. Delilah Norris

Vice President

201 West Lake Street, Suite 133

Chicago, IL 60606-1803

Tel (888) 234.4236 Ext. 230

Email AZMNH@ArtsConsulting.com

The City of Mesa reaffirms its policy, as stated in Section 902 (A)1 of the City Charter, granted August 18, 1967, to consider each applicant for City of Mesa employment on the basis of his/her qualifications for the job and without regard to race, color, religion, gender, marital status, age, or national origin. In addition, the City will not discriminate against an employee or applicant with disabilities (as provided under applicable state or federal laws), regarding any position for which the employee or applicant is qualified.

The City of Mesa is an affirmative action employer and every effort will be made to ensure that appointments, promotions, reclassifications, transfers, compensation, training, reduction in workforce, terminations, or any other type of personnel actions are based on merit, fitness, or other factors determined to be nondiscriminatory.

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