Search for new Storytelling Center director narrowed to three

Sue Guinn Legg • Jul 3, 2013 at 12:32 PM

The International Storytelling Center has narrowed its search for a new executive director to three candidates who are scheduled to be in Jonesborough for interviews July 18-20.

ISC Director of Programs Susan O’Connor said the search committee has chosen not to reveal the finalists’ names in order to preserve the anonymity of those who are not selected, but confirmed they are residents of California, Florida and Scotland.

They were chosen from a field of 80 applicants from around the world who responded to the ISC’s advertisement to fill the position that was published internationally in April.

The search committee plans to dedicate a full day to interview and introduce each of the three finalists to the ISC’s facility and programs and the town of Jonesborough, where the revival of storytelling began 41 years ago.

O’Connor said while each of the candidates are very different, they all meet the search committee’s three top priorities for an executive director: a passion for storytelling, an interest in the arts and a background in leadership and management suited to the ISC organization.

“If we feel one of them is the right fit, we’ll advance (their consideration) on to the full board. And if we feel we need to interview more, we certainly will. We don’t want to rush it,” O’Connor said.

“It’s still ongoing. We’re going to continue to interview and we still hope to have a director by early fall. ... That certainly is the goal.

“We’ve pared it down and we want to continue moving along in the process.”

O’Connor and Dr. Bill Kennedy, chairman of the ISC’s Board of Governors, both said the committee is very excited about the strengths of each applicant.

“We’re quite excited about it. And we’re excited to be this far along in the process,” Kennedy said. “We hope we’re near the end of the process.”

The new executive director will fill the position vacated by Jimmy Neil Smith, who retired from the post on Jan. 1 as part of the restructuring plan approved for ISC’s emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June 2012.

The bankruptcy was spurred by outstanding debts on the International Storytelling Center facility in downtown Jonesborough, which was built by the ISC at a cost of more than $4 million. The town of Jonesborough has since purchased the building out of bankruptcy and entered a long-term lease agreement that allows the ISC to continue to use the facility as a venue for its annual storytelling festival and year-round Teller-in-Residence program.

Since his retirement, Smith has continued to work under contract with the ISC as administrator of a grant funded story gathering partnership with the East African nation of Comoros. The project is being funded by the U.S. State Department to enhance the Comoros National Museum and the Comorian economy through tourism.

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