Regional leadership changes for Preservation North Carolina

LINCOLNTON – After an 18-year tenure at the helm of an organization often called the “animal shelter for old, historic properties,” N.C. Sen. Ted Alexander has stepped down as regional director of the western office of Preservation North Carolina (PNC).

The agency also has a new home – in the Pleasant Retreat Academy on East Pine Street in downtown Lincolnton, a building PNC was instrumental in preserving. This building also houses Lincoln Landmarks, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to preserving historic structures of Lincoln County.

“I’ve been involved in the field of historic preservation for 43 or more years now,” Alexander said. “I’ve been a member of PNC for just about all that time. I’d worked in the areas of downtown revitalization and main street preservation programs.”

The western office covers 37 counties, including Lincoln, Mecklenburg and Iredell. There’ve been numerous projects Alexander remembers with great fondness, including Ingleside in Denver.

“I think we’ve probably protected well over 200 properties in the 18 years I’ve been with Preservation North Carolina,” he said. “The First Presbyterian Church in Lincolnton was a major project. We’ve been helping the Mount Vernon Rosenwald School (Iron Station) and I’ve been pleased with their progress.”

Not all the efforts have been total successes.

“Sometimes you get a project that’s not an A+ project, but you move the needle,” he said. “You just hope the next person who comes along will move it a little further. There’s been a few instances where the timing wasn’t good or the circumstances didn’t allow it because the building was in too bad a condition.”

Now that he’s a senator, Alexander said he wanted more time to devote to that work.

“Also, I’m turning 62 and I want to do other things in life,” he said. “I have a lot of pride when I drive by a property that I was involved in restoring. It makes me feel like I made a difference. That’s what it’s all about.”

Joining PNC with many years of historic properties experience, new regional director Jack Thomson, who lives on a historic farm in Huntersville and was previously executive director of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, considers his PNC post a “dream job.”

“I’ve been in historic preservation on the nonprofit side for almost 20 years,” he said. “Working for Preservation North Carolina has been an unspoken goal for several years. It seemed like the right opportunity being a Western North Carolina boy so I threw my hat in the ring. Ted and I have worked together closely for two decades in similar roles.”

Thomson added those who work with PNC are not “hysteric preservationists” who realize they live in a modern world that needs to accommodate growth.

“We don’t want everything frozen in amber, but we do want the important historic and cultural resources that survive to remain,” Thomson said. “I think there’s plenty of opportunity to find a good balance to do that. When we roll up to a property, it’s often in bad shape and we’re the call of last resort in a lot of cases. Sometimes it’s too late, most times it’s not. We work with visionaries – people who can see the intangible history that’s represented in the physical presence of what remains.”

“These old buildings are our tangible connection to our ephemeral past,” he added. “Without them, it’s much more difficult for the community at large to have any understanding of where they came from.”

by Michelle T. Bernard, Lake Norman Media Group

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