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Budget choices thrown in new chief

Harper Dave.jpgA new executive director of the American Numismatic Association was appointed by the board of governors during the National Money Show in Phoenix.

Two finalists were asked to appear before the board March 5, the Wednesday before the show. Larry Shepherd was selected by the board at a Thursday night dinner in the suite of President Barry Stuppler.

The formal public announcement came at the ribbon cutting on Friday morning at 9:45. It has seemed a long time since an acting director was appointed at the end of the World?s Fair of Money last August in Milwaukee. However, the board had a capable leader in Ken Hallenbeck, who served until his successor was in place.

Ken is now off on a well-deserved three-week trip to India. He is pleased the board has acted, but when the decision was made, even he was a bit startled by the speed. It was rumored that an ANA safe had had its combination changed and Ken found himself locked out.

There were a lot of ANA members who were shouting advice into the board from the sidelines as the selection process went along. The only advice I offered was to choose someone from the numismatic hobby. This the board did. I think it made a wise decision, but only time will tell.
Nonhobbyist executive directors have had sterling resumes in the last 20 years, but there always seemed to be problems. One of them even resigned after six weeks.

There is a chasm of knowledge and experience between hobbyists and nonhobbyists. I think the chasm is too great to let someone try to learn the hobby while wrestling with a budget deficit that is now about 23 percent of the budget. (Expenditures are $6,204,616 while revenue is $4,757,746). For comparison, total salaries are $1,675,240 and benefits are another $499,846.

Cliff Mishler of the finance committee said approximately $300,000 had been cut out of initial spending proposals, but that drastic cuts were something they did not want to saddle the new executive director with. Mishler?s view is that the new executive director should be allowed to shape and mold the budget himself.

However, Stuppler reiterated his determination that the budget would be balanced by the end of his term in 2009. Mishler was slightly less ambitious, though his goal was the following year.

Whether the budget is balanced before Stuppler leaves office or the following year, major changes are in store for the organization unless the stock market stops falling and the endowment throws off enough income to cover the deficit. That scenario has been the hoped for outcome for years. The result has been a drawing down of the organization?s liquid assets within the endowment and a growing proportion being represented by the restricted Ben E. Keith stock. The Keith stock has value, but it is not easily sold.

So the board faced the decision of tying the financial anchor to Shepherd?s legs before he assumed his duties or allowing him to strap it on his back to try to swim with it. It chose the latter.

Changes and budget cuts are coming. I wish everybody luck in this process.

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