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NCDNCR Secretary Susan Kluttz Announces Johnson Will Be New Tryon Palace Director

New Bern

Media Consultant, Attorney, N.C. Native to Begin Oct. 30 

Secretary Susan Kluttz of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources announced today that Lee Johnson has been chosen to serve as Tryon Palace's new executive director.

"I am thrilled that Lee Johnson is coming home to North Carolina to lead Tryon Palace," said Kluttz. "I know that his deep Tar Heel roots and diverse skill sets will be a tremendous asset to the Tryon Palace team."

Currently working in Washington, D.C., Johnson is a media consultant, attorney and North Carolina native who will officially take over the position Oct. 30.

"I consider this a great honor and look forward to serving North Carolina in this important position," said Johnson. "I will do my best to preserve the memory of our patriot ancestors, to maintain the proud traditions established by generations of Palace leaders and to fulfill my leadership role as a part of the exceptional team that is already in place."

Johnson has focused on three areas of expertise throughout his career, including law and legal representation, public affairs and government relations, and media communications. Previous accomplishments in these fields include serving as legal counsel and Chief of Staff for two members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Leadership Chief of Staff for two members of the U.S. Senate, providing legal and public affairs counsel to a variety of organizations and production support for live television coverage of the past two presidential inaugurations in collaboration with Associated Press Television.

"Johnson's diverse experience in law and media will greatly aid the Palace's efforts in fundraising and public relations as it works to become more self-sustaining," said Kluttz.

The search for a new executive director began soon after the retirement of previous director Philippe Lafargue in March and included a selection committee comprised of members from the Tryon Palace Commission (Chairman Bill Cannon and Vice Chairman John Ward), Tryon Palace Foundation (Nelson McDaniel) and the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (Chief Deputy Secretary Karin Cochran and Deputy Secretary Kevin Cherry).

"I put forward my name for consideration because I believe in public service and believe in the importance of Tryon Palace," said Johnson. "Its mission to keep the story of North Carolina's history is alive, ongoing, continuous and vibrant. I am grateful to the members of the selection committee for their confidence in my ability and the time they devoted to a thorough discussion of my thoughts and observations about the Palace, its history and its future."

Johnson will become Tryon Palace's sixth director since the state historic site opened to the public in 1959. Among his predecessors are the Palace's first director, Gertrude Sprague Carraway (1956-1971), Michael Brantley (1971-1975), Donald Taylor (1975-1983), Kay Williams (1983-2012) and Lafargue (2014).

"These leaders hold a special place of honor here at the Palace and in the modern history of North Carolina," said Johnson. "For me, a native son returning to his home state to follow in the footsteps of these exceptional leaders, this legacy is both inspiring and humbling."

Tryon Palace Assistant Director LeRae Umfleet has served as the acting director throughout a transition that began November 2014.

"Regarding Tryon Palace's staff and its leadership team, the branch heads and LeRae Umfleet, the high level of professionalism is obvious," said Johnson. "To Mrs. Umfleet in particular much appreciation is due. I am very much aware of her hard work and that of the staff and will rely upon them for assistance and guidance as we begin our work together."

For more information or to schedule an interview, place call Craig Ramey at (252) 639-3511.