Institute searches for a new leader | AspenTimes.com

Institute searches for a new leader

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Elmer Johnson’s resignation as the president of The Aspen Institute was announced late Friday afternoon in a terse news release.

“William E. Mayer, Chairman of the Aspen Institute Board of Trustees, announced today that Elmer W. Johnson has decided to resign from his position at the Aspen Institute effective September 1, 2002,” the release stated.

“Mr. Johnson has been President and CEO of the Institute for [more than] three years, and during his tenure he has greatly increased the quality and focus of the Institute and has taken it to a new level.

“He has been a Trustee of the Aspen Institute since 1988 and agreed to take the position of President and CEO in 1999 for a three- to five-year period.

“He was the right person for the job, and he has accomplished the goals that he set and articulated to the Board. We are grateful for his dedication to the Institute and wish him well in the future.

“Senior management will report to the Chairman of the Board while the succession committee continues to search for a new Chief Executive.”

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That was the extent of the release.

When reached for comment and asked whether anyone else had resigned along with Johnson, Mayer confirmed that Janet Froetscher, the Institute’s chief operating officer, had also resigned, along with Lyn Corbett Fitzgerald, the senior vice president of communications, as well other members of Johnson’s support staff in his Chicago office.

“We’ve had some of his people resign as well,” said Mayer, who is with Park Avenue Equity Partners and was reached at his Red Mountain home.

Mayer said that Johnson’s resignation was not a surprise.

“I don’t think for the people on the board this was a surprise,” he said. “We put in a succession process in early April of this year, which he was part of. He felt he had accomplished what he had set out to do.”

Johnson was not available for comment over the weekend. In an interview with The Aspen Times earlier this month, Johnson spoke of several ongoing projects he was excited about, including a set of new programs on corporate ethics and another public television program produced in conjunction with Bill Moyers.

Mayer said that while the Institute planned on keeping its Chicago office open, the next president of the Institute will work out of the nation’s capital.

“The headquarters are in Washington, and the next chief executive will be in Washington,” said Mayer. “We have over 100 people there. We have 14 policy programs, and those policy programs are either based in Washington or New York. And that office provides a lot of the staff support for a lot of the policy programs.”

The search for the next president is under way, and Mayer expects someone to be named by the end of the year.

“We’ve collected a bunch of names and are talking to the people on the list,” Mayer said.

When asked if Amy Margerum, a former Aspen city manager who is now the executive vice president of finance and administration for the Institute, was a candidate for the top job, Mayer said, “I don’t know.” He said he doubts she and her husband would want to move to Washington and that he expects her to remain part of senior management.

Johnson is a former managing partner with the law firm of Kirkland and Ellis and held various offices at General Motors, including executive vice president and director.