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LeMay car museum fires chief operating officer

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on Nov. 14, 2011 at 1:24 pm with No Comments »
November 14, 2011 5:20 pm

Just 6 ½ months before their lavish new museum is set to open next to the Tacoma Dome, officials for LeMay–America’s Car Museum have essentially fired the man recently brought to town to run the museum’s day-to-day operations.

Steve Geis, selected in June as LeMay’s chief operating officer, was dismissed from that role last week after Chief Executive Officer David Madeira determined Geis wasn’t a good fit for the job, a member of the museum’s board of directors said today.

The museum board’s Executive Committee agreed with the decision, board member Karl Anderson added.

“He’s a really nice guy,” Anderson said of Geis. “But his experience really was more in visitors’ management. That’s important, but it’s not the kind of COO experience we need.”

Tacoma developer and former City Councilman Paul Miller, who also sits on the museum’s board, will work as acting operations chief until a permanent hire is made, museum officials said.

Geis, who directed operations at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida before coming to Tacoma, did not readily respond to a voice message seeking comment today.

LeMay museum spokesman Scot Keller said today that Geis remains an employee of Delaware North — the Buffalo, N.Y-based hospitality management firm LeMay contracted with in February to help run its museum operations.Delaware North, which provides operations management for hotels, airports, sports complexes and special event venues across the nation, also manages the visitor’s complex at Kennedy Space Center where Geis previously had worked.

In June, the hospitality company had assigned Geis to the COO’s job in Tacoma.  With last week’s action, Geis has since been “transferred back to Florida,” Keller said.

LeMay’s five-year agreement with Delaware North remains in effect, Keller added.

Meantime, Keller said museum staff is “thrilled” to have Miller, who helped oversee construction of the new museum building, serving as the interim COO.

“There isn’t anyone with better knowledge of the building and the way the museum can operate,” Keller said of Miller.

Keller said he did not know if Miller will be paid for his work in the interim position. Miller did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment today.

Construction on the $60 million, 165,000-square foot new museum, which will display parts of the late Harold E. LeMay’s acclaimed car collection, was completed last week, Anderson said.

“They’re just finishing up the punch list items,” he said.

Museum officials hope to make a permanent COO hire by the end of January, added Anderson. The change in management personnel shouldn’t affect the museum’s grand opening,  he said.

“We found out in time to get this fixed,” Anderson said. “We’re opening on June 2 – and that’s set in concrete.”

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