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Staff members leaving jobs at Pioneer museum

The abrupt resignations of four workers, including the curator, come amid financial struggle.

Published September 20, 2005

DADE CITY - Staff members of the Pioneer Florida Museum and Village have all announced their resignations, including Donna Swart, the museum's curator since 1990.

Swart said Monday she had decided it was time to move on but declined to elaborate.

"I love the place and think it's a wonderful museum, but it's time," she said, adding that she had not been planning her departure for long.

In addition to Swart, an office assistant and two maintenance staffers are leaving. Swart will work through Sept. 30.

Bob Sumner, president of the board of trustees, said the departures were abrupt.

"It all happened at one time, but I think for varying reasons," said Sumner, who also happens to be the county attorney.

He hinted at conflict.

"I think when it really came down to it, everybody was unhappy with little things that I would call nonsubstantial," he said. "I told each one of them that I would, after the Labor Day weekend was over, I was going to have a meeting, have everybody in the same room. But nobody wanted to wait until I did that."

The 44-year-old museum has struggled to recover financially since last September, when the Pioneer Days Festival, its main fundraiser, was canceled because of two hurricanes.

The museum made a plea for private donations to keep it afloat and received one for $15,000 from ranchers Bob and Sharon Blanchard.

The festival went off this year with good turnout and weather, but Sumner said it raised about $10,000 less than expected.

The museum's annual budget is less than $200,000, Sumner said. The festival typically raises $50,000 to $60,000 of that.

Sixteen of the museum's 35 trustees met Sunday to discuss the resignations. Sumner said the curator and assistant jobs, which are both full time, will be filled. The maintenance positions are part time and will also be filled.

"There have been some suggestions," he said. "There's a couple different people that have offered to work (on an interim basis)."

Sumner said his focus now is to get more people involved and help the museum continue to grow.

"Donna Swart has done a great job in helping build the museum over the past 15 years," he said. "We really hate to see her leave. But at the same time we're looking at this as a chance to reorganize and enhance our services to the public."

--Molly Moorhead covers news about Dade City. She can be reached at 352 521-6521 or toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6521. Her e-mail address is

[Last modified September 20, 2005, 01:55:19]

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