Britt Festivals names Donna Briggs as president and CEO

Times have changed and Britt Festivals is keeping pace.

Britt has given Executive Director Donna Briggs a new title, reflecting her duties over the past two years. She is now president and chief executive officer of the 51-year-old music and arts nonprofit enterprise.

Britt board Chairman Ken Trautman said the shift more properly reflects the role Briggs has played and follows a national trend among nonprofit organizations. She is given a free hand in day-to-day operations, while the board focuses on policy and long-term oversight.

"It's been a smoother running organization and we've been able to do things we couldn't do before," Trautman said.

Briggs, who was development director before taking the reins in October 2011, oversees a staff of 13 year-round employees and a seasonal staff that swells to 45 during the summer.

"I'll continue to operate the way the board has empowered me to work over the past two years," Briggs said. "I'm going to keep on doing what I do. Britt Festivals has become a much more complex organization in the last several years."

Britt has taken over management of the Peter Britt Gardens from Jackson County, brought in commercial vendors to operate concessions, acquired a residence and vacant lot near First and Fir streets and has recently concluded an $800,000 capital campaign.

"Now we're ready to begin extensive capital improvements," Briggs said, pointing to a list that includes handicap-accessible pathways and restrooms, a small-performance garden and handicap parking facilities.

In its five-plus decades, Britt has grown out from a simple classical festival to an eclectic set of festivals spanning four months. Early on, Britt hired a manager to work with its board, a position that grew into an executive director's role.

Plenty of opportunities remain in Britt's second half century.

"One of our goals is to have year-around performances and we haven't got to that yet," Trautman said. "We're looking at a system and procedure that might allow that."

He said Britt has been in contact with the Holly Theater and plans talks with other venues to accomplish that goal.

"There are other venues that could handle up to 4,500 people, if marketed and structured right, that could bring some decent entertainment," he said.

"We have an ongoing dialogue with the Holly Theater and we want them to have a close relationship with Britt. We haven't had that discussion yet with Ginger Rogers or Jackson County Expo. How do we better utilize the Lithia Amphitheater for the benefit of everyone in the county?"

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness.

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