July 2016

President's Message


My name is Andrea Blachman, and this is my first message as your new President. I had the honor of being installed as CCHS President at the 62nd Annual Meeting, held in Claremont, CA, June 23-25, 2016. It was an excellent meeting with especially interesting and informative workshops presented by professionals who demonstrated their knowledge and commitment to the historical community and to the non-profit world. We welcomed several new participants and attendees and were happy to see the many CCHS members who faithfully attend our events, all thoroughly immersed and engaged in the many aspects of the historical community.

The following is the talk I gave at the installation dinner, and it sets the tone and vision for CCHS for the next two to three years. That vision will be guided by the initiatives that have been developed by the Strategic Planning Committee and approved by the CCHS Board of Directors at the Annual Meeting.

The Strategic Planning Committee, consisting of five members with Ralph Thomas leading us through the process, has been working on this plan for almost a year. We are proud of it and feel that it will take our organization forward in a direction that will provide growth for CCHS as well as for our member organizations. Over the next year, we will keep you updated on CCHS's progress executing the plan and how it will help your organization. You will receive updates on the CCHS website as well as personally in correspondence to all members.

I wish each of your a Happy 4th of July and a wonderful summer.


I first met many of you in June of 2009. Mary-Ellen Jones had asked me if the Martinez Historical Society would host a Conference of California Historical Societies Annual Meeting in our small town. I told her I'd love to -- IF she'd help me.

Well, she did, and we did it. The rest is history. I was hooked.

Since then, I've met many delightful people and have made wonderful friends. I never dreamed, however, that one day I'd be your President!

Life often presents us with unexpected adventures, and this has been an unanticipated, but fantastic, journey. I am honored and humbled to be your new President.

With the support, help and encouragement of the many other devoted and enthusiastic members of CCHS, the next two years will be exciting and productive. Together, we will address the challenges and issues faced by local historical societies and by venerable organizations such as CCHS, as well as celebrate and share successes.

I want to thank our two past-presidents, Ann Shea, and most recently John Lenau, for the excellent leadership that they have provided over the last four years. They introduced many important changes to the organization, thus creating a strong basis and foundation for the vision and initiatives recently developed by the Strategic Planning Committee.

You will be hearing the following vision statement often. It will guide and direct all of our activities during the next three years:

CCHS will be the recognized leader in empowering historical societies in their mission to preserve California history by making them stronger and more responsive to their communities through organizational development and the sharing of successful strategies.

CCHS will endeavor to address the many concerns and problems currently faced by most small, local historical societies, such as declining and/or stagnant membership and difficulties in successful fundraising efforts to support their mission statements. We will assist our member-organizations, developing and increasing their technical expertise through the many venues that we plan to develop and sponsor, such as workshops, webinars, speaker bureaus, and a Knowledge Base with technical papers addressing a myriad of interesting and critical issues important to the historical community. We will strive to continue to be a premier resource for historical societies and an organization that we can all be proud of.

The Regional Vice President component of this organizational structure is unique to CCHS. The RVPs that represent the many local historical societies in the 40 regions of the State of California are the glue that holds the historical community together. RVPs are vital to the success of our organization, and we are going to work diligently to strengthen the RVP program by providing training for RVPs. In addition, we plan to develop useful and appropriate tools to assist the RVPs as they reach out to their local historical societies.

Those of your who are NOT RVPs are encouraged to represent us by promoting and attending our meetings, symposiums, workshops and other venues held throughout the state and in your local area. We urge each CCHS member to become an ambassador and actively advocate throughout the state as well as locally on behalf of this unique federation of history-oriented groups and individuals.

As we strengthen and empower our member historical societies, CCHS will grow and become California's historical community's "GO TO" organization.

We have a lot to do, but with your support "CCHS will be the recognized leader empowering historical societies in their mission to preserve California history."

So, we encourage both you and your CCHS colleagues to jump on board NOW and become active and engaged members of this progressive, forward-thinking and successful team.

Thank you all for your continued dedication, enthusiasm, commitment and support.


Andrea Blachman, CCHS President




First Vice President's Message

Show your history patriotism. Proudly wear an RVP badge!!!!

Patriotic greetings!

As I see it, my chief duty as your new 1st VP is to serve as the Chair of the RVP Council and as coordinator of the Regional Vice Presidents. I tried to buttonhole as many potential RVPs as I could at the wildly successful 62nd Annual Meeting in Claremont with its 18 interesting workshops. Sadly, because of timing issues, our RVP Council session was cut short, and my agenda with my notations was given to the secretary.

If memory serves correctly, we have dropped to a solid core of a dozen RVPs for the 40 RVP regions covering the 58 California counties, although some of us are serving temporarily as RVP for an adjoining region.

In the days and weeks ahead, I invite you to join in an exciting adventure and opportunity to make sure the entire state is historically represented. I suspect that at one time or another, every part of the state has been represented but not all at once. The dream is full representation.

Let me make it clear that being an RVP is a job that comes with a lot of work and responsibilities. It will take time, especially at first, and money. In many of the regions, especially those that haven't been represented for a long time, you will be starting from scratch. The time necessary to do an adequate job can vary from region to region. You will also need to be a CCHS individual member.

To learn more now, go to www.californiahistorian.com/regional_vice_presidents.

You can see what region you are in and whether it has an RVP. If the region is currently represented, you can volunteer to assist or possibly represent a nearby region. Kris Payne, Region 16 & 38 RVP and key webmaster, is in the process of making updates. Keep checking back, as well as exploring the entire website.

A money-saving perk is that the RVPs receive a 10% discount on their conference registrations. Be sure to ask for it. It doesn't include hotel registration.

My idea is that each RVP have or develop both a tote bag or briefcase and a work binder that they can pass on to a successor. In it, they should include their reports on their activities and contacts in their region. I have developed one with sections about each of the five counties in my home: Region 8.

Each new RVP will receive a packet of information - your RVP tool box, so to speak. The most important tool will be your RVP badge with the official state seal. Believe me, it is a great conversation starter when you carry out your duties, and you will want to wear it proudly like I do.

Here's an example, mine, including a description of my region:


Sierra Gateway - Placer, Nevada, Sierra, Sutter, Yuba Counties

(No. 8: The only region in the Conference of California Historical Societies with five or more counties. The region takes in the northwest portion of Lake Tahoe with three of its counties bordering Nevada on the east. It covers nearly 4,700 square miles, about the size of Los Angeles County with its 10 regions. No. 8's population is about 640,000 or about 6.4% of LA County.)

You can check my Region 8 annual reports for 2015 and 2016 in CCHS's Region 8 RVP Reports.


Flag.jpgFour hours for the 4th of July...

I began writing this message on the 240th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress that the 13 original colonies were giving birth to a new nation to be reckoned with.

The founders declared, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." Fifty-six men penned their names to these bold words. They never really imagined that two centuries and two score later, this is the nation that continues to expand the reality of equality for all, vested with rights that can't be taken away, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I celebrated the 4th in a new way this year. Most often since 1978, the 4th was spent running five miles in the free 4th of July run in Sacramento. This year, my run started out with the idea that I needed some good conditioning for the July 30th Squaw Valley Mountain Run that starts at the 6,200-foot base at Squaw Valley Village and climbs 2,000 feet over 3.6 miles to High Camp at 8,200 feet. It will be the 26th consecutive year for us (with my wife, Jean). Squaw Valley was the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, which I also attended while a novice reporter.

The July 4, 2016 outing started at my door with the trail beckoning less than a half-block away from my Auburn home, unsure of how far I might be able to go because of the heat and a forest fire. The trek lasted more than four hours and was full of history. I traversed parts of both the Jedediah Smith and Western States Trails, climbed the tough Stagecoach Trail that goes back to the Gold Rush, connecting Auburn and Foresthill and past my first home which my father built in the late 1930s. My route also took me past the finish lines of the celebrated 100-milers, the Western States run and the Tevis Cup 100-mile equestrian ride in a small city that boldly declares itself the Endurance Capital of the World.

Call it my own odd pursuit of happiness and history.

The outing also served as a reminder that while the Continental Congress was busy declaring a new nation 240 years ago, the Spanish were busy founding Mission San Francisco de Asis in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. We know it today as Mission Dolores, the oldest surviving structure in San Francisco history and still in use by a local parish. It was built on an Ohlone Indian village site.

Enjoy your summer, reflect on the past by taking a walk wherever you are. Your future and the CCHS future is going to happen. Let us work on creating an invigorating one.



Michael Otten, CCHS 1st Vice President

Region 8 Vice President (Sierra Gateway)




Second Vice President's Message

It is truly an honor to be selected as the Second Vice President of the Conference of California Historical Societies (CCHS). This position was formerly held by Michael Otten, who has now become First Vice President.

Over the past several months, CCHS has been hard at work charting our path forward for the next 3 years. Our new vision is a statement that will guide us in helping our members preserve history. It states: CCHS will be the recognized leader in empowering historical societies in their mission to preserve California history by making them stronger and more responsive to their communities through organizational development and the sharing of successful strategies.

As I reflect on the new 3-year vision of CCHS, it is clear that if we don't do all we can to help our members be sustainable and thrive, it will be increasingly more difficult for them to preserve their local history. I am committed as Second Vice President to do my best to help strengthen your historical societies through organizational development and the sharing of successful strategies (networking). The goal of CCHS is to help our members address the challenges they face. These include retaining and increasing membership in your historical societies, recruiting and retaining volunteers, and creating awareness for your organization.

What exactly is organizational development? Organizational development (OD) is a deliberately planned, organization-wide effort to increase an organization's effectiveness and/or efficiency, and/or to enable the organization to achieve its mission and vision and sustain itself over the long term. Simply put, to make your organization better than it is today. If we think about organizational development, it consists of a plan which drives all other activities including membership, volunteerism, and marking (creating awareness).

At this point, you may be saying, "Why do I need to pursue organizational development for my historical society? It's fine the way it is." As historians, we are much more comfortable focusing on the past than the future. However, if we do not change with the world around us, we as historical organizations risk becoming irrelevant. As humans, we tend to resist change. A favorite quote of mine sums it up- "If you don't like change, you will like irrelevance even less." -General Eric Shinseki.

What I will try to do over the next several months is to convince you of the connection between achieving your organization's mission and vision and organizational development. Have you or your Board ever said, "We need more members"? You may also have said, "If we could only get more volunteers". In many organizations, the questions are as far as it goes. The concepts of organizational development will help you achieve these goals and much more that will benefit your community.

Future issues of the newsletter will include:

  • Mission and Vision - How critical are they?
  • The Importance of a Strategic Plan
  • How to Motivate your Board and Volunteers
  • Leadership and its Importance to Your Organization
  • Membership - A Relational Experience
  • How to Hold People Accountable
  • Why Volunteering Benefits You and Your Community
  • Leadership Secrets - Dunford and Holtz Style
  • Effective Fundraising
  • Having Crucial Conversations with Difficult Volunteers
  • A Passion for Leadership - Lessons on Change and Reform
  • Millennials - Will They Get Involved?

If there are other topics you would like to hear about, please e-mail me at rht3ridge@aol.com.


Best regards,

Ralph H. Thomas, CCHS 2nd Vice President


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Conference of California Historical Societies
Bringing together California's historical community to share California's heritage, learn from one another and strengthen our communities.