By Cornelia de Bruin
Triplicate staff writer
Del Norte County's Historical Society is leaderless no longer.
Bryan O'Callahan took over the nonprofit's leadership Wednesday.
O'Callahan heard about the job opening during a recent trip to visit a friend here and to find out more about the Harbor District's plans for development.
During his visit he heard about the job opening from Del Norte County Board of Supervisors member Martha McClure.
"I got myself right down to RHS and got an application," he said.
O'Callahan's action proved the right one.
Larry Lakes, Executive Director of Rural Human Services, is also a member of the historical society's board.
When he became aware of O'Callahan's interest, he followed through for both entities.
"The Society hired the One Stop Workforce Center to conduct a search for the executive director," Lakes said.
Interviews of several applicants narrowed prospects down and the selection was made. O'Callahan began work in January.
"Bryan has an extensive background, is an author, and has a keen interest in the historical society's development and operational goals," said Lakes.
O'Callahan also has "extensive experience" working with historical and with Natural Resource and Environmental projects, and has received a merit award from the Nature Conservancy's Layton Wetlands preserve, he added.
O'Callahan's initial trip here followed his sale of a business he owned in Oregon for about a quarter-century.
"It was involved in the design and fabrication of exhibitions," O'Callahan said. "I sold it because I wanted to see what life was like on the other side of the ledger."
Now that he has changed hats, O'Callahan is beginning the work of a three-phase directive he received from the historical society's board of directors.
At the top of the list is to treat the operation "as if it were a business."
"As a nonprofit you don't have to operate at a loss, but they want me to tighten it up and make it more solvent," O'Callahan said.
Present income sources include museum and Battery Point Lighthouse admission and sales from a gift shop.
He also is charged with beefing up the historical society's membership, which has been "dwindling."
"Nationwide, historical societies are seen as a place where old duffers go," said O'Callahan. "It's really Del Norte County's historical society, and as such, everyone who lives here is a member, but we need to swell the rolls."
O'Callahan will recruit volunteers. Since the volunteer population comprises older residents, ensuring that trained people can help them and ultimately replace them is key to the ongoing operation.
Long-term plans include modernizing the museum's exhibits and freshening up the facility's look. Potential areas for expanding what's to see include the collection from the shipwreck of Brother Jonathan and "important dates and events that haven't been addressed here."