Damon CEO to lead Bishop Museum
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After a seven-month international search, Bishop Museum's board of directors named Timothy Johns as the new president, chief executive officer and director yesterday.
The 51-year-old Oahu resident assumes his new role Oct. 1. He is currently the chief executive officer of Damon Estate and previously worked as chairman of the Board of Land and Natural Resources for two years.
"It's a good fit," he said.
Johns said although he is unable to set priorities yet, his focus will first be on keeping commitments that were made and keeping the institution financially stable.
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A Damon Estate chief executive officer was named the new president, director and chief executive officer of Bishop Museum yesterday, beating out nearly 50 other applicants from around the world.
Residence: Waialae Iki
Job: Chief executive officer, director and president of Bishop Museum
Experience: CEO of Damon Estate, chairman of the state Board of Land and Natural Resources, vice president for Amfac Property Development Corp. and director of land protection with the Nature Conservancy of Hawaii, and trustee of Parker Ranch Foundation Trust. He also serves as a board of director for several companies.
Education: Bachelor of science in history and business economics from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Master's of arts in economics and law degree from the University of Southern California
Personal: Married to Robin Johns, with two children.
Timothy Johns, 51, will take over the position Oct. 1, succeeding Michael Chinaka, who has been serving as interim president since William Brown resigned in January.
"This gives me the opportunity to lead a really important institution during a critical time in Hawaii," Johns said.
The museum's board of directors chose Johns after a seven-month executive search by the international search organization Morris & Berger. After several interviews, Johns became a finalist, and met with the staff and management of Bishop Museum a couple of weeks ago.
Before working for the Damon Estate, Johns was director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. He has also served as vice president for Amfac Property Development Corp. and director of land protection with the Nature Conservancy of Hawaii. He received his bachelor's degree in history and business economics, a master's degree in economics and a law degree from the University of Southern California.
Johns, who comes from a military family and moved across the country as a youngster, has lived in Hawaii for 25 years.
"I'm not a scientist and I'm not a native Hawaiian, and I don't pretend to be well known in the native Hawaiian community," Johns said.
However, through his work at DLNR, Johns has experience with protecting sites that are biologically and culturally significant. He said he also understands the educational aspects of Bishop Museum, being a part-time teacher himself for 10 years. He stresses the word "sensitivity" when dealing with cultural issues.
Johns knows he is stepping into controversial issues, such as the Forbes Cave case, which has pitted native Hawaiian groups against each other over possession of artifacts.
"My only hope is to deal with it in a less destructive way," he said. "I know that there's differing points of view. ... I want to just treat everyone with respect."
The museum has never had a native Hawaiian president and chief executive officer, and that was one thing that Edward Halealoha Ayau, executive director of Hui Malama I Na Kupuna o Hawaii Nei, was hoping for. Despite Johns not being Hawaiian, Ayau said he is optimistic about the new leadership.
"(Hui Malama) had the opportunity to work with Tim in the past, and he seems like a very fair and even-handed person," Ayau said. "We feel that was missing in the previous leadership."
One thing Johns wants to do is bridge the gaps between Bishop Museum and the business and political communities. His immediate goals upon taking on the position are to complete commitments that were made prior to his hiring and to make sure the museum remains financially stable.
"We are delighted the board of directors has chosen a candidate with a deep commitment to the preservation and perpetuation of the Hawaiian culture and respectful sensitivity to cultural issues," said Betty Lou Kam, vice president of cultural resources for the museum.
Johns takes over as Bishop Museum undertakes a $21 million renovation of its iconic Hawaiian Hall complex. Some of the renovations include making the complex compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, modernizing its climate control and enriching the exhibits by making them interactive.
For Johns the ironic thing about it all is that Samuel Mills Damon was one of the founding members of Bishop Museum and Charles Reed Bishop's good friend and business partner. According to Johns, when Bishop moved back to the mainland, he left Damon in charge of completing the Hawaiian Hall building.
"Eighty years later and they're still connected," he said.