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Heritage Foundation expands preservation team, creates advisory committee

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Heritage Foundation new team members

From left: Jill Burgin, Rachel Harrell Finch and Blake Wintory, Ph.D.

The Heritage Foundation of Williamson County has added two full-time roles to its preservation team, as well as established a volunteer advisory committee, announced Bari Beasley, Heritage Foundation CEO. 

The new volunteer advisory committee was formed to help provide insight, guidance, information and recommendations directly related to historic preservation needs in Williamson County.

Rachael Harrell Finch, former executive director for the Historic Franklin Masonic Hall Foundation, joined the Heritage Foundation in the newly formed role of senior director of preservation and education. Jill Burgin, current Main Street director for the Downtown Franklin Association, moved into the role of director of government relations and advocacy. 

With nearly 10 years of experience in historic preservation, museum leadership and nonprofit management, Finch will lead the preservation and education team in all preservation projects, preservation and interpretation planning, educational programming and advocacy. For the last five years while at the Historic Franklin Masonic Hall Foundation, she led the preservation efforts to restore the Hall, a National Historic Landmark. 

Finch holds a Master of Arts in public history with emphasis in historic preservation, cultural resource management and administration of historical organizations from Middle Tennessee State University and a Bachelor of Arts in history and political science from Metropolitan State University in Denver, Colorado.  

"I am incredibly honored to lead the Preservation and Education team of the Heritage Foundation,” she said. “My years with the Historic Franklin Masonic Hall Foundation, the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area and the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University bring my experience in preservation, education, community partnerships and museum leadership to support the critically important work of the Heritage Foundation.”

Finch added she is particularly excited to lead the preservation work at Franklin Grove Estate & Gardens, the largest preservation project in the foundation’s history and to develop innovative educational initiatives for educators, students and community.

In Burgin’s new role with the Heritage Foundation, she will transition her focus from Franklin’s Main Street and Downtown Franklin Association to the newly created role of director of government relations and advocacy. She will work with the foundation’s preservation team to monitor land use and development in Williamson County and advocate for the interests of historic preservation and conservation of rural landscapes.

A native Tennessean, Burgin was born and raised in Memphis and moved to Williamson County in 1991. After a career in journalism, she ran for public office and was elected to the Brentwood City Commission in 2011. She served two terms as vice mayor and one term as mayor from 2017-2019.

Burgin is on the board of the Franklin Transit Authority, has been a member of the Middle Tennessee Mayors’ Caucus and a board member of the Greater Nashville Regional Council and the Middle Tennessee Regional Transit Authority. She was in the inaugural class of the Transit Citizens Leadership Academy, served on the Board of Directors for the Williamson County Convention and Visitors Bureau and was a member of the 2013 class of Leadership Brentwood.

In her last act as Main Street director, she will complete the national accreditation for Franklin’s Main Street program this month, with the goal of making this the 37th straight year the program has been accredited.

“I am very much looking forward to this new role within the Heritage Foundation,” Burgin said. “I moved to Franklin the same month that CoolSprings Galleria opened 30 years ago, and to have witnessed the incredible growth our county has experienced has been interesting. This role will combine my interests in government and historic preservation, and I am eager to work with our preservationists on keeping what makes Williamson County special.”

The Heritage Foundation will name a new Downtown Franklin Association director in the coming weeks. 

Finch and Burgin join existing Director of Preservation and Education Blake Wintory, Ph.D., an Arkansas native who has more than 18 years of experience in historical research and preservation. 

Before joining the Heritage Foundation in 2019, Wintory spent a decade as the director of Arkansas State University’s Lakeport Plantation house and served on the boards of Preserve Arkansas, the Arkansas Historical Association, and the Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee. 

He has published articles on architecture and history in the Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Preservation Mississippi Blog, the Lakeport Plantation Blog, the Arkansas Review, the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture, the Online Biographical Dictionary of the Woman Suffrage Movement in the United States and Harvard’s African American National Biography. Most recently, he authored Chicot County (2015) in Arcadia’s Images of America series and a book chapter, “African American Legislators in the Arkansas General Assembly, 1868-1893: Another Look,” in A Confused and Confusing Affair: Arkansas and Reconstruction (2018).

Beasley said she couldn’t be more excited to announce these new additions to the Preservation and Education team. 

“Preservation and education are at the very heart of what we do,” she said. “As we continue to grow and embark on the largest preservation project in our organization’s history with Franklin Grove Estate & Gardens, we want to make sure we stay true to our core mission. This expansion ensures we have an expert team of scholars and thought leaders in this area.”

Preservation Committee

In addition to bolstering the preservation and education staff, the Heritage Foundation has also formed a volunteer preservation committee that will allow the organization to expand its base of people who are bringing resources and support to the mission.

As part of the Heritage Foundation’s mission to serve the entire county, the purpose of this committee is to serve in an advisory capacity to promote the preservation and sustainability of Williamson County’s diverse historic and cultural resources. The committee will also provide insight, guidance, information and recommendations directly related to historic preservation needs in Williamson County.

Named on the new Heritage Foundation Preservation Committee are:

Vincent Fuqua – (Spring Hill representative) Spring Hill alderman, passionate about heritage tourism for Spring Hill, local business owner 

Inetta Gaines – (Brentwood representative) Brentwood Historical Commission member and member of the African American Heritage Society of Williamson County

Ricky Jones – (Fairview representative) Williamson County commissioner, history and U.S. governmenteducator, athletic director and coach of the golf and softball teams at Fairview High School

Beth Lothers – (Nolensville representative) Williamson County commissioner, member of the Nolensville Historical Society, former mayor of Nolensville

Ginger Shirling – (Rural/Unincorporated representative) served on the Citizen’s Advisory Committee for Williamson County’s Special Area Plan for Triune and the planning forum for 2007 Williamson County Comprehensive Land Use Plan

Ellen Smith (chair) – (Franklin representative) Heritage Foundation board member, board member for Traveller’s Rest, Franklin resident 

Jim Van Vleet – (Thompson’s Station representative) Thompson’s Station Park Commission member

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