Four months into the search for a new executive director of the Knock Knock Children’s Museum, 27 people from throughout the country have applied for the position. Five of those applicants are under serious consideration, says Aza Bowlin, who chairs the search committee.
“It’s a broad group,” says Bowlin, declining to identify the candidates because of confidentiality agreements. “They all have experience with the children’s museum field, or the hands-on early learning science center field, and a few have had experience outside of that, which we’ve also considered.”
But the position remains open as committee members continue to sift through applications and interview qualified candidates. The search process involves multiple interviews with the committee, site visits, and meetings with the board of directors and leadership staff.
It’s a competitive market, says Bowlin, noting it’s difficult to find people with the necessary experience to fill the niche role—especially with little turnover industry-wide.
Another significant challenge is the current political environment, she says, particularly at the federal level. Kittleman & Associates, the Chicago-based firm hired by the Knock Knock board to help with the search, has told committee members many potential candidates are “uneasy” about relocating amid uncertainty regarding the possibility of another government shutdown.
The five-member committee—which includes Bowlin, Jon Leblanc, Cate Heroman, Rolfe Miller and Staci Duhe’—is hesitant to put a timeline on their work, saying they’ll put a new director in place when it’s the right director.
“We’re going to continue to search, source and interview until we find that person,” Bowlin says. “It’s truly candidate-specific.”
A national search launched in late October after former director Peter Olson stepped down from his position in September. In the interim, Genny Nadler Thomas has been serving as acting executive director.