Carol Thompson, who has led Heritage Sandy Springs Museum and Park for the past 13 years, is retiring.
Thompson, executive director of the nonprofit dedicated to preserving the city’s history through a variety of ways, is leaving Oct. 4. Her announcement came Sept. 30, the day after Heritage hosted its largest annual event, the two-day Sandy Springs Festival.
She joined Heritage in late summer 2006 and has led the organization through several changes, including the creation of the Sandy Springs Society Entertainment Lawn, the renovation of the former Suburban Tool Rental building into Heritage’s office and rental space for private events, the renovation of the Heritage Sandy Springs Museum at the Williams Payne House, the creation of The Sandy Springs Gazette, the inheriting and growth of the Heritage Sandy Springs Farmers Market and the increased attendance and growth of the Concerts by the Springs and the Sandy Springs Festival.
“I am proud of what we have accomplished as an organization over the past 13 years on this very special site, saved from commercial development by community volunteers in 1984,” Thompson said in a news release. “The growth has been the joint effort of strong board leadership and the Sandy Springs volunteer community who donated their resources and time, with a special thank you to the Sandy Springs Society for the faith and resources they sent our way. The growth over the years was about creating a sense of place and giving the community a gathering place, to enjoy, to learn and to have fun.
“For many years, before Sandy Springs became a city, Heritage Sandy Springs was the ‘heart of Sandy Springs,’ giving friends, neighbors and visitors a place to come and be involved, not only through our programs and events, but also through the many volunteer opportunities offered by Heritage Sandy Springs over the years. I am blessed to have been a part of it. I’m also excited about the future of Heritage Sandy Springs Museum and Park as our community grows and flourishes.”
In an interview, Thompson said her departure is “bittersweet.”
“It’s been a wonderful ride,” she said. “But for me personally and my family, it’s a good time for me to step away. I think it’s good for me and I think it’s good for Heritage.”
Thompson will be replaced by interim Executive Director Deborah Minor, a Heritage board member. Minor has more than 20 years of experience in nonprofit management, including operations, financial and building management. She is also a certified public accountant.
“Carol’s impact on (Heritage) will be felt for years to come,” Minor said in a news release. “Under Carol’s leadership, the organization has grown, and not only has Carol stayed true to the mission of preserving the history of Sandy Springs, she’s been true to the supporters, she’s made sure (Heritage) was allowed to grow and be a place where families and individuals have a place to go for beauty, education and fun.
“Carol has made (Heritage) a part of her story for many years, and she’s been an integral part in the growth and success of so much of the organization. We are grateful for her service and wish her the absolute best in her retirement.”
Thompson said her decision to retire came about four weeks ago, and she planned to wait to leave until after the festival.
“Deborah is awesome,” she said. “She’s stepped up and has been in the office for the last couple of weeks. I feel confident they will move forward just fine without me.”
Thompson said she’ll most remember “the wonderful people I was honored to work with.”
“We had awesome board leadership through the years,” she said. “That helped us create the entertainment lawn, working with the Sandy Springs Society, and to change the Blue Stone (Road) building into our offices on the top level and event space on the bottom level to create a revenue stream for the nonprofit.
“We also recreated the museum with the Williams Payne House. I’m very proud of what’s happened. It’s been very rewarding. I have loved working with these amazing community volunteers that sit on our board.”
Thompson said she has no plans to leave the area anytime soon, adding, “I’ll be around.”