Director of agency that oversees Lincoln museum dismissed
Nov. 03, 2015
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency dismissed its director Monday, following skirmishes with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, which it oversees.
The preservation agency's board of trustees voted 4-3 to replace Amy Martin, whose clashes with the manager of the Lincoln museum made headlines in the past two years. Garth Madison, previously the board's chief legal counsel, was named interim executive director.
Martin has worked for the agency for 3 ½ years. Her dismissal comes about two weeks after the director of the Lincoln Museum, Eileen Mackevich, submitted her resignation.
"A new set of eyes looking at things will maybe have this agency and some of the sites it oversees — for example, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum — looking at more cooperation," board chairman Jim Bruner, appointed by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner last month, said in explaining the board's rationale.
Martin did not return a message left at her Springfield home Monday night. Agency spokesman Chris Wills said Martin had no comment.
The agency oversees more than 50 historic sites, including former President Ulysses S. Grant's Galena home; New Salem, where Lincoln began his political career; and the Shawneetown Bank in southern Illinois. The agency also administers the Lincoln museum, a showplace when it opened a decade ago that has suffered amid staff cuts and worn-down exhibits.
Martin, who made $110,000 a year, tussled with Mackevich, who gained the backing of House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, to establish the Lincoln facility as a free-standing institution. Mackevich argued the Lincoln museum had trouble charting its own scholarly and developmental path while constrained by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, but the Legislature took no action. When Mackevich resigned last month, she indicated Rauner aides had told her the governor wanted a change.
The four trustees who voted to replace Martin are all Rauner appointees.
"I want to see somebody that can bring people together, work together to get things done," Bruner told reporters after the vote. "There's no reason that the museum and the agency should be at conflict."
The three votes opposing Martin's ouster were from holdover board members, including Democrats Mindy Spitzer Johnson and Julia Bachrach. Neither would comment after the meeting but referred to a statement Johnson made earlier in the day that she was "very proud of the accomplishments of the IHPA over the last year-and-a-half."
Madison, who will retain his current, $90,000 salary while serving as interim director, said he wants the job permanently. His top goal is shoring up staff at both the preservation agency and the Lincoln library and museum.
Contact Political Writer John O'Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor