ALBERT MARTENIS III was formally introduced as the new executive director of the Owosso Historic Commission (OHC) during a press meeting at Curwood Castle on Wednesday, Feb. 19. Martenis (second from left), who is passionate about the Owosso community and local history, is shown with OHC Vice Chair Dave Acton, OHC Chair Elaine Greenway, longtime Curwood Castle docent and historian Denice Grace and OHC executive committee member/supporter Mark Erickson.
The group is shown in front of the 1910 cover illustration by Frank Hoffman for the James Oliver Curwood book, “The Danger Trail.” The illustration is a new acquisition for OHC.
(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)
by Karen Mead-Elford, co-editor
Owosso Historic Commission (OHC) Vice Chair Dave Acton formally introduced Albert Martenis III, of Owosso, as the new executive director, sharing that a number of very qualified candidates were interviewed, but through the process, the commission made the unanimous decision to hire Martenis. Acton explained the commission has a vision that was incorporated into the interview process and that Martenis demonstrated a deep understanding and respect of that vision and was able to exemplify those concepts to the members. Going forward, OHC will “embark on a committee structure,” explained Acton, referencing the development of subcommittees within the group. He also expressed how the commission had a “great chemistry” with Martenis, and the organization is excited and also grateful to the community for supporting them through the recent bond. It is in their plans to utilize those funds through the millage to garner matching funds and grants – demonstrating their stewardship to the community through fiscal responsibility, to achieve the mission of fostering an appreciation for Owosso’s historic heritage.
In referencing the new title of executive director, Acton simply stated that it is shadowing the model that is utilized by Main Street. It should be noted that the position is contractual, with Martenis working as an independent contractor and not as a city employee.
Martenis explained that he sees the position as an opportunity to work as “a bridge” between the museums, OHC, the city of Owosso, working with the Curwood Festival board “and reaching back out across the table with all of the other executive directors in the community to rebuild those relationships and share the brand of what the castle and Curwood is.” He further elaborated, stating, “My goal is bring all of those people together, pull what their passions are, and then recreate that narrative together so that we can work from 2020 forward with a new vision that still upholds all of the strategic pieces of our historic past.”
Acton also discussed that OHC had worked without a director for a period, utilizing that time to “learn a lot” and “set priorities,” setting up a support system, allowing Acton to function in a supervisory role – meaning that OHC plans to go forward as an “active commission.” The plan will allow Martenis to have “just the right amount” of creativity and freedom, while allowing for a support system for him to utilize, as well.
Martenis has already been functioning as the director for 18 days, prior to the Wednesday announcement. “It’s been a very interesting and very positive 18 days,” he shared. He expressed his enthusiasm for the Hoffman illustration acquisition (above) from James Oliver Curwood’s decendent, Janis Durham. “This position holds a lot of passion for a lot of people,” acknowledged Martenis. “The castle is almost 100 years old. It turns 100 years old in three years,” he stated, explaining how he is reimagining the Curwood Castle brand for the community, under the structure and mission provided by OHC. “This is a whole century of history that is still standing, that has been saved by the predecessors of the community.”
Martenis was raised in Owosso, went to Owosso Public Schools, returned to live in Owosso 10 years ago, and is exceedingly proud of his heritage and the heritage of the community. He is pleased to be working with and for the commission, sharing their vision for the future, which includes a number of exciting projects that are just at the speculative stage at this time – including ideas to draw in multi-generational interest and reintroduce historic personalities that some locals might not recognize.
The Owosso Historical Commission, a commission of the city of Owosso, has regular meetings at 7 p.m. at Curwood Castle on the second Monday of each month. Individuals seeking more information may call the castle at (989) 723-2155. Some information is also provided at www.ci.owosso.mi.us. OHC is also a member of Historic Shiawassee. Information on that group can be found at www.historicshiawassee.org.