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CEO Update November 30, 2020

Surface Navy Museum and IOWA Family:

As I write this blog, we are actively monitoring the COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County and their subsequent impact. Friday evening, we received an update that has required us to reduce our maximum occupancy and added additional criteria for admission to those visiting and volunteering on board the ship. Our crew immediately sprang into action and adjusted to this new protocol.

Last week, we began with a positive outlook on the holiday weekend. Yet as the week progressed, the health orders changed our operation again and thus, our visitor attendance. Los Angeles has returned to a Safer-at-Home order, under which we are directing our remaining staff to work at home if possible. Additionally, we are requiring all meetings to take place virtually and continuing our strict adherence to protocols for those aboard the ship in-person. Our hopes are that we can avoid taking numerous steps backwards due to the most recent increase in COVID-19 cases and the resulting health orders.

While the majority of the economy is recovering quite well, industries such as ours continue to be ignored. The lack of stimulus for our industry is noticeable and will have long-lasting consequences to museums throughout our country. Every day, we are placed in the onerous position of trying to determine what is important versus critical in the tasking of our limited remaining staff. With a 75% reduction in staffing and a 50% reduction in volunteer hours, we are faced with complex decisions that will affect the long-term delivery of our programs. The stress is high, the short-term impact is noticeable, and we do our best to position ourselves for a strong and prosperous future.

Let’s face it: it is not sustainable to ask a crew of a small staff and mostly volunteers to make this organization their primary commitment. Yet they do. As I walk the decks, I see volunteers that have been here almost daily. I watch crewmembers reach into their wallets and donate to their beloved organization. They believe in our future and know that we will win the war on COVID.

I continue to be amazed, despite the despondency and stress that each of us is experiencing, that our crew continues to have the fortitude to fight every day. Their drive provides me the motivation to wake up every day and fight alongside them. The struggle is real, the uncertainty is prominent, and the stress is unbearable at times.

This year has been transformational for many of us. Personally, I have learned there are limits on what I am able to take on. I have realized that I have been fighting depression for several years and masking it by being overworked. It has been transformational to open my eyes and see the amazing individuals that are associated with the dream of the IOWA and the National Museum of the Surface Navy. As the losses continue to mount from COVID, the mortality of those that are closest to us comes into sharp focus. The reality that life can end at any given moment has generated a deeper understanding of love and commitment to those closest to me.

As my commitment to my family and each of you comes into sharper focus, I am doubling down my efforts to execute on our plans. Your commitment is inspirational and we will give it our all to ensure that the future remains bright. We will fight to the end and I have no doubt we will win with your support.

Our hyper focus is driving us to look at 2021 and beyond: what are our most impactful programs, how can we grow and amplify them on a national scale, and what should we change to become better? How do we think more strategically and become a stronger organization because of this pandemic? Our organization has already changed and will continue to do so, for the better, because of you.

Get ready for one of the most exciting years ahead. The time will be memorable and magical. It will be transformational, yet enjoyable. I am honored to have each of you by our side as we fight the effects of the pandemic and transform into the National Museum of the Surface Navy.

My only request is that you not give up. Don’t give up hope and please continue to support us as we cross the finish line. Together, we will prevail.

God bless and be safe.

Jonathan Williams
President & CEO
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