PNTS leadership and headquarters update

by Bill Martin, PNTS Transition Task Force and Trail Leaders Council member

The Partnership for the National Trails System (PNTS) will retain the services of an interim executive director as a bridge between the retirement of long-time Executive Director Gary Werner and the hire of a permanent, full-time executive director.

In addition, PNTS will move its national headquarters from Madison, WI, where it has been located for nearly three decades, to the Washington, D.C. area.

Both decisions were made by the PNTS Board of Directors following recommendations from a Board-appointed Transition Task Force (TTF), which was established earlier this year to help guide the organization through a time of change and opportunity.  

“As we considered the needs of the organization, it became clear over the course of our discussions that there was much more involved than simply posting the job and waiting for qualified applicants to pour in,” said Liz Bergeron, PNTS immediate past president and chair of the TTF. 

“We found that transitions from beloved founder executive directors are particularly challenging and that organizations that hire an interim executive director emerge stronger, more financially sound and more optimistic about the future than organizations that transition immediately to a new permanent executive director. Most significantly, we concluded that an interim executive director would best assist the PNTS in addressing any systems and capacity issues and lay the foundation for the permanent executive director’s success.”

Bergeron and the TTF praised the leadership of Werner, who has served since 1991, first as chair and now as Executive Director of the Partnership. 

“We would not be where we are today, nor would we be as successful, without the hard work and leadership of Gary Werner,” she said. “When he announced his retirement, the Board recognized that we had some big trail boots to fill.”

Werner is scheduled to retire at the PNTS Board meeting in February 2020 at Hike the Hill, the annual Washington, D.C. gathering of scenic and historic trail supporters organized by PNTS and the American Hiking Society. 

The TTF expects to identify an interim executive director before the end of 2019, a hiring that will require approval by the Board of Directors. The interim executive director will be retained on a part-time basis for no more than 12 months while the formal search of a permanent executive director is ongoing.

“PNTS has benefitted from stable leadership and a strong, passionate Board and membership,” said Bergeron. “A new executive director gives us an opportunity to bring a new perspective and a new energy. However, it has become clear that there could be unreasonable expectations in hiring a new executive director and asking this person to ‘hit the ground running,’ developing short- and long-term strategies and goals for the organization while at the same time addressing organizational infrastructure development.” 

The move of the PNTS headquarters to Washington, D.C., planned for late in 2020, is seen as necessary because of the importance of the Federal legislative process and Federal agency partners to PNTS scenic and historic trails.

In addition to Bergeron, who is Executive Director of the Pacific Crest Trail Association, members of the TTF include: Christy Corzine, former PNTS Treasurer, at large Board member; Sandi Marra, President and CEO of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and PNTS Board member; Bill Martin, Oregon-California Trails Association and Trail Leaders Council member; Elizabeth Stewart, Anza Trail Foundation, PNTS Board and Trail Leaders Council member; and Mike Wollmer, Executive Director of the Ice Age Trail Alliance, PNTS Board and Trail Leaders Council member. PNTS Board President Barney Mann serves as an ex-officio member of the Task Force, which also uses the services of consultant Mary Stelletello and Vista Global Coaching and Consulting.