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Southern Oregon Historical Society names new director

Robert "Rob" Esterlein, 59, of Fredericksburg, Texas, is the new executive director of the Southern Oregon Historical Society.

He was among 27 applicants for the job, which pays $50,000 a year, said Dick Thierolf, a local attorney who chairs the SOHS board.

"We had some excellent applicants," he said, noting the decision to select Esterlein was unanimous.

Esterlein was formerly the chief operating officer for the Admiral Nimitz Foundation at Pacific War Museum in Fredericksburg.

A Navy veteran of the Vietnam War, he has a bachelor's degree in history and French from the University of Texas-Arlington.

After college, which included attending graduate school, he took a job with the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History where he worked for 23 years and became the IMAX theater director.

Esterlein replaces former SOHS executive director Allison Weiss, who stepped down in August to be closer to her family on the East Coast. She has served two years in the post.

During her tenure, Weiss helped reopen the SOHS research library in Medford with an almost all-volunteer staff as the organization consolidated its efforts into the JC Penney building. She also helped create a traveling exhibit program to help engage the community in the importance of preserving history.

Weiss took over SOHS during a time when the entire staff was laid off and all properties were shut down during a period of reorganization.

She was cited for developing a better working relationship with Jackson County, which gave SOHS a $200,000 loan against the future sale of the U.S. Hotel.

The History Center in Medford leases out some of its space to the Kid Time Discovery Experience. Seeds of Change, a national organic seed company, leases Hanley Farm, which SOHS also owns.

Four county-owned properties, which SOHS leases, are now being managed by the Jacksonville Heritage Society which formed last year. The Jacksonville buildings include the courthouse complex, the Catholic Rectory, the Beekman House and Beekman Bank.

Since Weiss' departure, Pat Harper has served as the interim SOHS director.

— Paul Fattig