Yakima Valley Museum

The Yakima Valley Museum. (GORDON KING/Yakima Herald-Republic)

YAKIMA, Wash. -- There’s no clear end to the search for a new Yakima Valley Museum executive director.

When the process of finding a successor to John Baule started at the beginning of the year, museum officials expected to announce a hire by the end of summer.

“It’s just taken the search firm longer to find candidates that are appropriate,” said Bette Taylor, chairwoman of the museum’s search committee.

However, two new candidates for the job will be in town next week, while Interim Executive Director David Burton remains a candidate. That the museum board has not offered him the job should not be seen as a vote of no confidence, Taylor said.

“He is in no way out of it,” she said.

Two candidates identified earlier this year are now out of the running, she said.

The first of the two new candidates, Diane Converse, will be at the museum Monday for a  meet-and-greet with the museum’s search committee and others from the Yakima community. The second, Peter Arnold, will be there on Wednesday. They were identified as candidates by the Los Angeles-based search firm Arts Consulting Group. That firm declined to comment for this story, citing confidentiality.

Converse resigned from the Pratt Museum, a natural history museum in Homer, Alaska, in May 2016 after seven years as CEO and director. She cited family reasons in a museum newsletter: “Balancing work and life can be a challenge. I have decided that for me the balance must tip to life and family.”

“Converse has been a dedicated director with great passion for the Pratt and has maintained its stellar national reputation,” Maureen Sullivan, the museum’s board secretary, told the Homer News at the time.

Arnold resigned from the Genesee County Village & Museum in June 2016, calling the move a retirement in a statement. He had served as its president and CEO since 2007. At the time the Democrat & Chronicle newspaper of Rochester, N.Y., quoted Gayle Stiles, chairwoman of the museum’s board, as crediting Arnold for his lasting impact.

“This is evident in our evolving adoption of technology and new interpretive techniques to engage visitors, our strategic acquisitions to bolster nationally respected 19th century collections and behind-the-scenes infrastructure improvements that make a world of difference in how we operate,” she told the paper.

Taylor, who declined to discuss the specifics of the candidates, said she was looking forward to meeting them next week.

“They’re two qualified candidates,” she said. “But David Burton is also a qualified candidate.”

Burton was hired last February as the Yakima Valley Museum’s director of advancement and has been overseeing its day-to-day operations since last September when Baule went on a three-month sabbatical that preceded his November resignation. Prior to coming to Yakima he had been a senior director of the Institute for the Study of the American West at the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles.

He said this week he understands the museum’s rationale for extending the search.

“Obviously I would have liked to have thought they’d be confident enough in me to just turn the reins over to me.”

 “But I understand the process. It’s a big deal to select your next director. ... The city of Yakima deserves a good vetting process.”

This is the first time in a quarter-century the museum has needed to hire a director. Baule, who has stayed on as a museum archivist, had held the job since 1992. The search committee has been dedicated to conducting an exhaustive search with the help of Arts Consulting Group, Taylor said.

“We signed up these people and we paid all this money,” she said. “We figure we better see it through.”

It’s possible there will be even more candidates to emerge if the museum board isn’t satisfied with the two visiting next week, Taylor said. But she’s ready for the search to end.

“I am hoping these candidates are the last candidates we want to see,” she said.