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Old Salem names new president. Interim president and CEO Terry Taylor to take top spot permanently.

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Old Salem trustees have picked interim president and chief executive Terry Taylor to take the role on permanently, saying his performance during the short term demonstrates that’s he’s the right person for the job going forward.

The board of trustees that govern Old Salem Museum & Gardens and the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts voted unanimously to name Taylor to the leadership post, according to Will Joyner, who chairs the board.

“Although the board had previously discussed waiting until 2023 to do a national search, we continued to get questions from the community about our future direction, and a number of our supporters expressed confidence in Terry,” Joyner said.

Taylor, who was previously Old Salem’s chief operating officer, stepped into the role of interim president and chief executive on June 30, following the departure of Frank Vagnone. Vagnone left to become president of the Newport Restoration Foundation in Newport, Rhode Island.

Joyner said Taylor’s performance in the interim leadership role “solidified to the search committee and full board that he is the right person to lead Old Salem going forward.”

“He has a long history with Old Salem and has developed sound relationships with our community partners,” Joyner said. “As the chief operating officer, he played a key role in getting Old Salem on sound financial footing and steering us through the worst of the COVID pandemic. We felt very confident in naming him to be our next President and CEO.”

Taylor retired from DataMax Corp. as chief operating officer in 2016 after working there 29½ years. A few months later, he became director of the Old Salem Visitor Center. He was named interim chief operating officer of Old Salem in 2019, and permanent chief operating officer in 2020.

His association with Old Salem stretches back much further. While at DataMax, Taylor began working at MESDA part time, mostly on Sundays, beginning in 1999.

His lifelong love of history motivated his desire to connect with Old Salem, Terry said. He is a native of East Bend, and his family farm is recognized as a Century Farm — one that has been in the same family for more than 100 years — by the N.C. Department of Agriculture. The farmhouse where he lives now was built in 1915.

“My dad collected antique clocks and guns, and as a kid I collected stamps and coins, so I grew up going to antiques shows with him,” Taylor said. “He had about 350 clocks, and if someone was coming to see him, he would wind up about 300 of them.”

Taylor continues to collect antiques and maintains a small booth at the Antique Mall of the Foothills in Jonesville, where he sells some of the items.

Taylor’s major initiatives with Old Salem have included working to sell 10 tracts of land that Old Salem has owned west of Marshall Street. Eight of the ten properties have been sold, including the former Coca Cola plant on Marshall Street.

“I am delighted that the old Coke plant is going to be redeveloped into a food venue,” he said. “All the money from the sales of these properties will go toward creating an endowed fund that will generate income each year for upkeep of our buildings. This is important because maintaining and repairing historic structures is very expensive, and it’s hard to get grant funding for that purpose.”

Old Salem Museums and Gardens is a historic site and museum sharing the diverse cultural history of the early South, with special emphasis on the Moravians of North Carolina.

MESDA features architecture, furniture, ceramics, metalwork, needlework, paintings, prints and other decorative arts made and used in the early American South.



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