The board of directors of The James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art in St. Petersburg announced today that Laura Hine, the museum’s executive director, is resigning. The news release stated that she is leaving to “dedicate all of her time to the advancement of public education and public service.”
Her departure isn’t immediate: Hine will stay on through the spring or until the museum finds a new director. The board of directors will conduct a national search.
Hine has been serving as an elected school board member for Pinellas County since 2020. Through the years, she’s served in numerous public and civic roles.
In a phone interview, Hine said her position on the school board can be a full-time job, but she’s excited to get out in the community more and hear from people.
“I’m going to dedicate my time and energy to public education, advocacy and improvement through my role as an elected school board member,” she said. “Also, I care very much about where we are as an electorate, in the state and country when it comes to our elections and the work of our elected leaders.”
Hine’s involvement with the museum began in 2015. Working closely with founders Tom and Mary James and curator Emily Kapes, she had been the project director of the development of the museum, coordinating the architecture, construction and commercial spaces on the museum’s block on Central Avenue.
She was named executive director in 2019 and during her time developed the museum’s mission, vision and value statements, drafted a strategic plan and worked with the team to respond to the pandemic.
While leaving the museum is bittersweet, Hine said she thinks it is ready for a “phase three leader” to take the museum into the future. She said the first director, Bernice Chu, got the museum open, art hung and tickets sold as the museum was in its first phase. In her own role, Hine said she helped the museum figure out its identity. She believes the museum has a strong foundation.
“I think we’re moving in the right direction,” she said. “I feel like we have the right people in the right places, amazing subject matter experts, dedicated to continuing what we’ve started here.”
“We are grateful for all Laura has accomplished at the museum; her leadership has seen us through novel challenges, great successes and set a solid path forward,” founder Tom James said in the release. “I commend Laura’s work in public education; strong public education is vital to business and our society and we need more people like her leading the charge.”
Hine said working with James has been the highlight of her career and leading the team has been an honor. She said she loves working with the museum’s professionals, volunteers and community leaders and they are what made her decision difficult.
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“The James has and will continue to deeply impact our community with uplifting and educational experiences,” she said. “There is a bright future ahead for The James Museum and our beloved arts community in St. Petersburg.”