Reagan Foundation in Simi Valley struggles to find next leader

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute in Simi Valley is having difficulty finding a successor for Executive Director John Heubusch, who was set to retire Dec. 31 but has agreed to stay on through June 30.
Mike Harris
Ventura County Star

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Institute is having difficulty finding a successor for Executive Director John Heubusch, who was set to retire Dec. 31 but has agreed to stay on through the end of this month.

The Simi Valley nonprofit raises funds to support the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum's special events such as the ongoing "Secrets of WWII" exhibit and its series of speakers, including recent appearances by FBI Director Christopher Wray and Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. 

Heubusch, 63, has been executive director for 13 years.

The foundation's board has conducted an extensive search to find a successor for the high-paying job and has interviewed candidates, but has had trouble finding the right person, spokeswoman Melissa Giller said Tuesday.

"John has big shoes to fill," she said. "He's done just such an amazing job."

The board initially asked Heubusch to delay his retirement and stay on through March 31, but when it still wasn't able to find a successor by then, it asked him to extend his departure one last time, through the end of this month, Giller said.

"Which John graciously agreed to," she said. "The hope is that coming this June 30, he actually can retire, and we will find ourselves with a new executive director."

The foundation and institute has an annual budget of about $34 million with about 50 full-time and 75-100 part-time employees, Giller said.

In a statement, Heubusch said he was humbled by being asked to remain in the position through June.

"It's the best job in the world for someone like me," he said. "These additional months on the job have given me the chance to say thanks and farewell to a lot of talented people I've worked closely with or had the honor of meeting."

According to 2019 tax records, Heubusch's reportable compensation was $595,673. He received about $76,526 in other compensation, the records show.

Board Chair Frederick Ryan, Jr. said in a statement that the trustees appreciated Heubusch's willingness to stay on during the longer-than-expected transition.

"His dedication to preserving and promoting the legacy of Ronald Reagan and in leading the foundation founded by the president himself is unwavering," Ryan said.

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Giller said Heubusch's planned retirement isn't directly related to the esophageal cancer he was diagnosed with in 2013 and overcame.

"I think when he got the clean bill of health, it made him re-evaluate what he wants to do with his next chapter," she said. "If he wants to write more novels. If he wants to travel to Italy, where his wife's family is from.

"So, the time seemed right for him," she said.

Heubusch, who lives in Hidden Hills in Los Angeles County, is the author of two thrillers, "The Shroud Conspiracy," published in 2017 and a sequel, "The Second Coming," published in 2018.

Under Heubusch’s management, the foundation grew its endowment by hundreds of millions of dollars, held a celebration of Reagan’s 100th birthday anniversary in 2011, and a celebration of the library's 30th anniversary in November, Giller said.

Reagan was the U.S.'s 40th president, serving from 1981-89. He died June 5, 2004, at age 93.

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Heubusch also oversaw the renovation of the museum and the establishment of the Reagan Institute's Washington, D.C. office, Giller said. The institute's new permanent home there will have its formal ribbon-cutting next week, which Heubusch will participate in.

The Reagan Institute "will have a lasting impact and help keep President Reagan's vision alive for many years to come," he said.

Mike Harris covers the East County cities of Moorpark, Simi Valley, and Thousand Oaks, as well as transportation countywide. You can contact him at mike.harris@vcstar.com or 805-437-0323.

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