Transportation Museum director to retire

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 16, 2011

By Karissa Minn
SPENCER — At the end of the month, Elizabeth Smith plans to retire as executive director of the N.C. Transportation Museum.
Smith has worked for the state for 31 years, and 21 of them have been with the Transportation Museum in Spencer. Those years have been great, she said Tuesday, but “it is more than time” for retirement.
“I have grandchildren now, and I’m interested in spending more time with them,” Smith said. “And I had decided that about 31.5 years was where I needed to be to retire and be in a good position financially.”
Smith’s last day at work will be Nov. 30, and her retirement officially begins Dec. 1.
She said she’s proud of restorations that the museum completed in 1996, as well as its Boy Scout camp and Education Advisory Board.
“I’ve been pleased with the way that we’ve continued to move forward despite economies,” she said. “But the staff and volunteers here are probably the thing that I have the most pride in.”
This year, the Transportation Museum has undergone some changes. According to the state budget passed this summer, it must become self-funded over a two-year transition period.
In July, the museum began charging admission fees of $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and active military and $6 for children ages 3-12. Children 2 and under still have free admission.
“We are moving from a wholly state-supported facility to a receipt-funded facility,” Smith said. “Partnerships and the cultivation of those partnerships are going to be some of the most important things that have to take place.”
Mark Brown, public information officer, said Smith helped ensure that the Transportation Museum was making use of all of its buildings, including the roundhouse and Barber Junction Depot.
“She’s really taken this museum from a very humble place and helped shepherd it into a really first-rate facility,” Brown said. “She will be missed very much.”
Once Smith steps down, she said, she will likely spend some time as a volunteer with the Rowan Museum and the county board of elections.
The N.C. Division of Historic Sites, part of the state Department of Cultural Resources, is responsible for filling her position. Smith said that process should take about four to six weeks.
Brian Howell, chief of museum facilities and services, will serve as interim director until a replacement is hired.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
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