Thursday, January 12, 2006


Leader completes efforts at battleship’s helm


The Virginian-Pilot
By Debbie Messina
January 11, 2006

Retired Rear Adm. Jack Kavanaugh’s work as executive director of the USS Wisconsin Foundation has come to an end. DELORES JOHNSON/THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT

NORFOLK — The longtime face of the battleship Wisconsin, retired Rear Adm. Jack Kavanaugh , has worked himself out of a job.

Thanks to a merger with the Nauticus Advisory Board and The National Maritime Center Foundation, the USS Wisconsin Foundation has ceased to exist. And so has Kavanaugh’s job as executive director, which he held since the foundation’s inception in 1999 .

“I’ve been after this ever since I got here,” said Kavanaugh, 66 . “We’ve needed to consolidate into one organization. … And it’s a good time for me to move on.”

Congress has authorized the Navy to decommission the ship, which is berthed next to Nauticus. The deck has been open to tourists since April 2001 and draws close to 500,000 people annually. Within a year, the Navy is expected to turn it over to local officials, who plan to open the interior.
Preparing the interior will require several million dollars for things like fire suppression and air conditioning.

Because of the Wisconsin’s needs, combined with Nauticus’ plans to update its exhibits, plans are under way to bring in a consultant to help with a large fund raising campaign, Kavanaugh said.

“It’s a bigger job that’s coming up in the next few years, so they really need some professional fund raising talent,” Kavanaugh said.

The main mission of both the Wisconsin Foundation and The National Maritime Center Foundation was to raise money.

City officials pushed for the merger because they were concerned that the public was confused by the separate entities, which competed against each other not just for funding, but for attention and visitors. The merger, which has created an entity called The National Maritime Center, has also caused the closure of the Nauticus Advisory Board and The National Maritime Center Foundation.

“We’ve had two to three fund raising efforts going on at the same time, all basically for the same facility,” said Mayor Paul D. Fraim , who served as chairman of the Wisconsin Foundation until a few months ago. “You don’t do it as efficiently that way.”

The goal is to eventually fold in the Hampton Roads Naval Museum Board as well. That museum also is housed at Nauticus.

The city also is building a $41 million cruise terminal next to Nauticus.

Under the new structure, Nauticus, the cruise ship terminal and the Wisconsin will all come under the control of a new board of directors. Richard C. Conti , Nauticus’ executive director, will control day-to-day operations of the ship, cruise terminal and maritime center.

As Kavanaugh departs, he said the foundation has fulfilled its original mission: to raise money and to get the ship turned over to the city.

The foundation has raised $4 million in private donations. The federal and state governments have spent $6.75 million on the Wisconsin as well. Nearly all of that money went into dredging, exhibits and preparing the pier.

Kavanaugh said there is about $360,000 in the group’s endowment.

Fraim said Kavanaugh has been a “true friend” to the city and the Wisconsin.

Kavanaugh retired from active duty in 1996 after 34 years as a Navy supply officer.
His last command was heading the $2 billion Navy Exchange System.

“Jack was seen as an ally to everybody,” Fraim said. “Jack understands the military funding process. He’s well acquainted with the c ongressional delegation, a nd he was the most easily identifiable face with the effort to bring people to Norfolk to visit the Wisconsin.”

Kavanaugh said he’ll still serve the Wisconsin in a volunteer capacity, probably on a committee for the new organization.

He’s not sold on leaving the workforce, though. “I may retire for a while, but I’m too young to 'retire’ retire,” he said.


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