Executive Director

Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center
August 29, 2019
Townsend, Tennessee
Job Type
Contact Name (not public)
Melody Silverberg
123 Cromwell Drive


Organization Overview:

The Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center opened in Townsend, Tennessee in 2006, dedicated to showcasing artifacts of the Native American indigenous people and European settlers who inhabited the southern Appalachian region.  Artifacts of the Native American peoples dating back to 9,000 B.C. were curated by the Cherokee nation, and other local artifacts related to European settlers in the 18th and early 19th Century were obtained through loans from the National Park Archive, the McClung Museum at the University of Tennessee, and donations from private individuals.


The Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center preserves, interprets and shares the history and culture of the diverse peoples and Native Americans who have inhabited the Southern Appalachians including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and offers exhibitions and programs for educational and cultural enrichment.


The Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit.  The Center is overseen by a Board of Directors.

Physical assets:

The Center sits on 10 acres on the edge of Townsend, Tennessee. It is less than 1 mile from the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Adjacent to the Center is the National Park Archive and Collection Center, and there is an artifact sharing agreement allowing the Center to exhibit artifacts not seen previously by the public. The main building includes three galleries (Main, National Parks, and Proffitt’s Gallery for temporary exhibits), a Museum store, administrative offices, an auditorium which seats approximately 100 guests, two classrooms, a large archive, and a 500 seat outdoor amphitheater which hosts multiple concerts and festivals each year.  The Transportation Gallery is a separate building with an attached “bus shed” which is also used as event space. A pending construction project will add another large gallery.  Located behind the main building, the Historic Village features historic buildings representing structures common to mountain communities.  Examples include a family cabin, cantilever barn, blacksmith shop, church, stagecoach station, and an authentic moonshine still.  In addition to the Pioneer Village, the restored home of the founder of Maryville College sits near the property entrance.

Exhibits & Programming:

The Heritage Center is actively involved in providing hands-on educational opportunities for visitors of all ages, but with special emphasis on school children.  Programs for children include, but are not limited to, demonstrations of pioneer living (hearth cooking, toys, using a washboard), using the atlatl (a Native American device used in hunting and battle), making corn husk dolls and simple clay pots, and pioneer games.  All programs are managed by the full-time GSMHC Educator, are curriculum based, and include docent led tours of the exhibits. “Family Fun Days” present similar programs for summer visitors.

The Proffitt’s Gallery is used for temporary exhibits.  Recent notable exhibits include the Kentucky Rifle Association exhibit of guns from the Revolutionary War era, an exhibit of quilts by the Walker Sisters who were the last residents allowed to remain in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and a collection of modern Cherokee pottery.

The Transportation Gallery includes examples of transportation modes from horse drawn vehicles to a fully restored Ford “wagon” (a precursor of the pickup truck).

Cades Cove Heritage Tours, a Heritage Center subsidiary, owns four tour buses, holding 14 or 18 guests and specializes in guided tours inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Revenue streams:

The Heritage Center has multiple revenue streams, including membership dues, event admission fees, special event sponsorships, sales in the Museum store, grants, large and small donors, and state / federal funding.  The Guild holds one major fundraising event per year to support the Center.  Cades Cove Heritage Tours (CCHT) provides guided tours of Cades Cove with a limited number of special tours to other significant historic sites in Tennessee, North Carolina, southern Virginia, and Kentucky. Some excursions include an overnight stay for guests.  CCHT has served more than 6,000 guests in the past year.

Strategic Planning:

A 3 year Strategic Plan was updated in mid-2019.  The full Board participates in the process, as well as the Executive Director, the staff, and selected volunteers.  The plan currently is focused on six areas:  Board Development, Fiscal Sustainability, Marketing and Member Engagement, Human Resources, Facilities, and Exhibits.  Board Members serve as Coordinators for each of the Goals, with additional Board Members, Staff, and Volunteers actively working on the action steps.

Community Description:

Townsend, TN is located on “the Peaceful Side of the Smokies” and is a Gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Approximately 2 million visitors access the National Park through Townsend annually. Located 40 minutes from Knoxville,20 minutes from Maryville/Alcoa, 30 minutes from McGhee-Tyson airport, and 30 minutes from Gatlinburg / Pigeon Forge which home to Dollywood and many other significant year-round tourist attractions. It is convenient to shopping, entertainment, and the excellent medical services of both Blount Memorial Hospital (in Maryville) and the University of Tennessee Medical Center.  There are multiple options for housing, including communities with the best of mountain living.  Recreational opportunities include all outdoor activities.  Both casual and fine dining opportunities are located within minutes of the Center.  There is a very diverse artist community and an active Artisan Guild.  There are multiple churches in the area.  Maryville and Alcoa boast the two most highly rated school systems in the state, and the Blount County Library is one of the leading libraries in the state.

Townsend is a community of families with deep roots in the history of the area.  Many of the residents are descendants of families who came through the Cumberland Gap to find new opportunities in Tennessee.  The history of Townsend is entwined with the history of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  These families have proved to be valuable resources in the development and support of the Heritage Center.

Position Summary

Roles & Responsibilities

Governance & Strategic Vision / Planning / Collaborative Relationships with Stakeholders

The Executive Director (ED) reports directly to the Board of Directors.

Works with the Executive Committee of the Board to provide annual orientation and training regarding the role Board members play in the viability of the organization, the Strategic Plan, and the fiscal health of the Heritage Center.

Actively engages in Strategic Planning initiatives.  Works collaboratively with the Board, and assures staff and selected volunteers are involved in the process.  Provides updates on progress on action steps in the plan.

Maintains contacts with external stakeholders to communicate the mission of the Center, provide updates on the progress of the Heritage Center in reaching fundraising goals, outreach programs, special events, and opportunities for constituents to support these activities. 

Leadership & Administration

The Executive Director is responsible for all day –to-day operational and management functions of the Heritage Center.

The ED encourages creativity, innovation and initiative from the staff in their areas of responsibility and authorizes resources required to execute approved proposals.

Develops organizational chart/staffing plan to meet the goals and mission of the Center.  Establishes competencies required for position vacancies.

Establishes and maintains a working relationship with all constituents and affiliated entities, including the Board of Directors, donors, foundations, community leaders, schools superintendents, colleague institutions, private and public agencies, and public officials.

Maintains involvement with the area Chambers of Commerce, Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Authority and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, thereby establishes foundations of mutual collaboration with the Heritage Center.

The ED fosters a culture of transparency, teamwork, and accountability within the organization through regularly scheduled staff meetings, and provides periodic updates to the Board, staff and the Guild on business activities, programs, events, and other significant information.

Evaluates, mentors, and coaches employees to foster high levels of performance.  Rewards outstanding performance as appropriate.

Ensures that the organization is following all labor and employment laws.

Fiscal Oversight:  Budgeting, Monitoring, Forecasting, Revenue Enhancement, & Expense Control

The ED develops annual budgets for all profit/expense centers (Operations, Capital, and Cades Cove Heritage Tours) with input from GSMHC Managers.

Budgets are presented to the Executive Committee, and then to the full Board for approval.

Monitors fiscal performance in all profit/expense centers and works with GSMHC staff and managers to identify opportunities to increase revenues and reduce expenditures.

Performs or oversees cost/benefit analyses for all existing programs and events to forecast the expected income and expenses for each.

Works with GSMHC staff and managers to improve or eliminate underperforming programs/events.

Forecasts intermittent expenses for historic building preservation, administrative facilities, infrastructure and equipment based on preventive maintenance plans.

Conveys to the Board the impact on annual and out-year budgets.

Assures all capital improvements or expansions are subject to a pro-forma process by appropriate stakeholders. Uses the results of the pro-forma to facilitate the Board’s decisions on these initiatives.

Works with GSMHC staff to improve membership renewal/solicitation procedures.

Oversees the development and execution of  marketing strategies to increase small donor participation.

Public Visibility & Community Engagement

The ED is the public face of the Heritage Center and must effectively articulate the mission to preserve the cultural heritage of the region.  In addition, the ED must communicate how various fund-raising activities support the mission.

Serves as initial point of contact / liaison for schools, universities, and other historical and non-profit organizations.

Engages with local and regional media to highlight programs and events at the Heritage Center.

Provides oversight of volunteer recruitment, training, and performance.  Promotes volunteer involvement in improvement of the guest experience.  Proactively recognize volunteers for exceptional work.

Maintains involvement with the area Chambers of Commerce, Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Authority and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, thereby laying foundations of mutual collaboration with the Heritage Center.

External Relations & Strategic Partnerships 

Identifies universities with Museum Management programs to offer and implement an internship program in association with the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center.

Maintains memberships in good standing with appropriate museum, business, and tourism associations.

Develops and maintains strong relationships with donors and sponsors to protect the existing base of these critical revenue streams and encourage year over year growth in the number of donors and sponsors and the revenue it represents.

Facilities, Collections, Exhibit & Programming Stewardship

Oversees, (i)  the accession of all artifacts and items for exhibit or enhancing our archived collections including documentation of ownership, history, cataloging, storage, insurance etc., which will enhance the quality of both permanent and temporary exhibits at the museum.   Ensures that all GSMHC artifact collections and exhibits are properly maintained according to accepted Museum standards.

Responsible for the maintenance of the facilities, making sure they are structurally sound, safely accessed, and attractive to the community.

Implements a scheduled maintenance plan for all historic buildings,  infrastructure, equipment, and safety systems.

Grants, Sponsorships and Fundraising

The ED is directly involved in fund-raising for the GSMHC, including conducting direct appeals, and oversight of other fund-raising activities.

Performs oversight of the grant application process.  Provides data to support the applications, and provides guidance to GSMHC staff preparing applications.

In cooperation with the Fiscal Sustainability committee pursues opportunities to obtain funding from established donors, and to identify and pursue potential new sources of revenue.

Oversees and/or personally solicits sponsorships from individuals and corporations for special programs, events, and capital improvements.

Prepares and/or approves proposals to government entities to obtain funds for organizational priorities.

Develops program to increase revenues for the center by aggressive fundraising and marketing strategies.

Works collaboratively with the Heritage Center Guild to provide support and assistance for their events.

Community Outreach & Growth 

Explores opportunities to expand the educational programs and special events to additional school districts.

Works with staff and volunteers to identify opportunities to expand programs for adults and seniors.

Works with current volunteers to increase the cadre of volunteers to meet growth needs.


Traits & Characteristics

The Executive Director must demonstrate an exceptional commitment to the preservation of the history and legacy of the Great Smoky Mountains and its diverse people.  In addition, this position requires an entrepreneurial spirit, the ability to articulate a compelling vision of the future of the GSMHC, and the energy, enthusiasm, and dedication to bring it to fruition.

Key Competencies:

Collaborative Leadership:  Able to lead diverse teams of stakeholders to achieve goals.

Self-Management & Personal Accountability:  Has high ethical standards, and demonstrates intellectual and emotional maturity.  Is able to prioritize multiple demands to meet organizational needs.

Fiscal Oversight & Budgeting Acumen:  Has ability to develop comprehensive, achievable annual budgets which realistically represent the fiscal requirements to maintain the operation of the museum.  Maintains accountability and oversight of all financial activities.  Ability to identify potential problems and take corrective actions.

Strategic Planning, Prioritizing, Accountability & Result Oriented:  Uses strategic planning paradigms to set priorities in all areas of operations.  Uses Performance Improvement principles/root cause analysis to approach underperformance in any aspect of the operation, and works with staff to implement improvements. Uses outcome data to evaluate and quantify progress.

Interpersonal Skills:  Able to work with stakeholders in a collegial manner.  Has ability to successfully negotiate mutually beneficial agreements (formal and informal).  Maintains a professional demeanor with staff, visitors, and volunteers.

Diplomacy, Teamwork, Flexibility & Resiliency:  Is able to motivate and facilitate teamwork to accomplish priorities.  Is able to diffuse confrontational situations while maintaining institutional/personal integrity.  Is adaptable and able to maintain composure in stressful situations.


Must have at least 5-7 years of experience in Business Management, with senior management experience, and preferably with museum / non-profit management experience.  Other types of experience or relevant education may be considered equivalent on a case by case basis. Please provide documentation (transcripts, certifications, diplomas, etc.). 

Must have outstanding communication skills, including experience in group communications, business communications, and presentations to legislative / governmental agencies. Experience with media communications is also desired.

Applicants must have experience in grant writing or oversight of the grant writing process.

Applicants must have proficiency in the use of technology to meet the requirements of the position.  Proficiency using Microsoft Office (primarily Word, Excel, Presentations) or equivalent is necessary.  Proficiency in QuickBooks or other equivalent fiscal management software is strongly preferred.  Proficiency in additional software with non-profit emphasis is desired (e.g., donor management programs, event management software, etc.).

Must have past experience responding to and supporting a Board of Directors or other oversight authority, and experience in functioning collaboratively within a committee or workgroup environment to achieve complex organizational priorities.

In light of our fiscal and educational obligations, ED must meet the highest professional and ethical standards.  All applicants will be subject to a background check, including law enforcement checks.  Refusal to provide information for the background check will result in the applicant being rejected.  Drug screening may also be performed.

How To Apply

Applications & Inquiries 

Applicants should submit their resume/curriculum vitae, optional example of professional writing, and documentation of equivalent education to be considered.  Applicants who are scheduled for an interview will be required to provide a list of at least four references with direct knowledge of the applicant’s qualifications and character with complete contact information at the time of the interview.  Submit all requested documentation and/or questions to gsmhcrecruitment@gmail.com by September 30, 2019.  Please indicate if you prefer a representative of the Heritage Center to contact you via text, email, or telephone.

Qualified applicants will be scheduled for an interview after October 1, 2019.  A complete copy of the position description for Executive Director is available upon request via the above email address.

Statement of Non-Discrimination

The Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center does not and shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in any of its activities or operations. These activities include, but are not limited to, hiring and firing of staff, selection of volunteers and vendors, and provision of services. We are committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all members of our staff, volunteers, contractors, vendors, and guests.

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