Willamette Heritage Center hires local as new director

The Willamette Heritage Center has hired Bob H. Reinhardt as its next executive directer. Reinhardt, who is currently a visiting assistant professor of history at Western Oregon University, will teach through the remainder of school year. He will assume part-time responsibilities at the center on March 31 and begin full-time work in June.

Reinhardt is a 1996 graduate of Cascade High School in Turner. He grew up going to the heritage center for field trips, concerts and wedding receptions. He currently lives within walking distance of the center with his wife, Leah McMillan (architect) and children ages 3 and 1.

“The Mission Mill and Willamette Heritage Center are a reassuring constant in my life. They are a strong institution, strong presence, in the area,” Reinhardt said. “There are all these ways that I’m connected to the institution in my personal life. I’m excited to be connected to it now in a professional way.”

Before returning to Western, Reinhardt spent a year-long post-doctoral fellowship at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He earned his doctorate in history at the University of California, Davis, his master’s degree at the University of Oregon and undergraduate degree at Willamette University. While at Oregon, he wrote a thesis on environmental history in the North Santiam Canyon. He taught history at Willamette University for five years while completing his doctoral dissertation.

“I keep finding myself coming back to the Mid-Willamette Valley,” Reinhardt said. “Being part of helping people learn about this place is part of why I was so excited to come back … I am excited to teach people about where they are.”

“He’s someone who really cares about the entire community and that’s what you need when trying to protect the history of the community,” Janet Taylor, president-elect of the center’s board, said. “We think he’s going to be a great success.”

Taylor said Reinhardt was chosen from a field of 11 applicants. The center’s executive director position has been vacant since the abrupt departure of Sam Wegner in July 2014. Before that, the position had been filled by interim director, John Hawkins, for more than seven months after Peter Booth resigned. The center’s previous board president, Ted Stang, is currently serving as interim director.

“You can’t run an institution with four leaders in two years,” Stang said. “Bob’s interest in history ties closely to our mission. He has been involved in nonprofits with a sharp eye on the bottom line which is important to our continuation. He brings skills that are essential to moving us forward.”

Reinhardt said he hopes to build on the center’s existing programs and the strong work of the staff, board and volunteers.

“I’m excited to be part of this institution,” Reinhardt said. “This is a place that I love and know, the Mid-Willamette Valley. I have the fantastic opportunity to be in a position to help contribute to this community. Be on the lookout for exciting things to come in the months and years ahead.”


Statesman Journal
Tom Mayhall Rastrelli