Chief honored for 22 years’ service
After serving 22 years as executive director of the USS Kidd Veterans Memorial & Museum, Maury Drummond officially retired to a standing ovation at his last commission meeting on Saturday morning.
Several members of the Louisiana Naval War Memorial Commission praised Drummond for his dedication.
Col. Jim McCurry, US Army retired, and six-year commission member, presented Drummond with a ceramic sculpture of an attacking eagle with wings spread and reaching claws, the commission’s highest “Meritorious Service” award.
“You finally gave me the bird,” Drummond, 72, quipped to the two dozen, standing and applauding audience members who gathered in the museum’s theater. “Thanks everyone — it’s been an experience.”
Alex Juan, 35, the museum’s administrative assistant since March, will take the helm of the museum complex on Monday. Juan previously served as a captain and public affairs officer with the 159th Fighter Wing of the Louisiana Air National Guard. Her husband is an officer working out of the Carville facility and they have two teenage sons.
“I’m very, very humbled about this — and I’m passionate about this,” Juan said. “We’re going to go out into the community and be more involved with things going on in downtown Baton Rouge and all sorts of veterans affairs and the schools.
“Mr. Drummond did so much to get us here and we’re going to take it to the next level by increasing the amount of people we have come in here and increase the amount of programs,” Juan said.
Commission chairman Joe Jenkins said Juan’s application was “the most impressive” of the seven submitted, and told her they were expecting her to do “a great job.”
In a brief interview up on the levee overlooking the Kidd prior to the meeting, Drummond remarked that he had no big plans, “except to not be here. It’s time for me to retire and move on …We have a lot of good folks who work here.”
Drummond, a former LSU basketball star, said health issues led him to decide last month to retire. He said he’ll be available where needed and wants to continue to volunteer.
He announced during the meeting that he plans to attend some future meetings of nationwide groups managing historic ships to represent the Baton Rouge commission.
“The main thing is keeping this old ship, a national historic landmark, one of the best restored ships in the country,” Drummond said.
If he had to pick a highlight of his tenure, he said, it would be hosting local school children at the museum and ship and especially the establishment of the museum’s Hall of Honor.
“When I first got involved there were no planes, no flags, no nothing,” Drummond said. “The museum was empty. But I had a lot of help.”
He said he’ll miss the opportunity to complete some projects he had on the drawing board, although he intends to remain involved.
But he also plans to kick his feet back and enjoy time with is family.
“I have 11 grandchildren and they come to me and can spend time around the pool — that’s what I’ll be doing a lot of,” Drummond said with a laugh.
His advice to his successor, is “you have to put your heart into something like this. It’s not a routine job — it is something you carry home with you and it’s something that sometimes keeps you up at night. I’ve been fortunate to have some good folks around me.”
Commissioner Karen St. Cyr told Drummond and the audience, “He has put his heart and soul into making this what it is today and we offer him our gratitude.”
Juan told the commission she hopes they will help her and the staff with some publicity and fundraising programs because the ship needs some work done on it, especially the hull.
“We have such a great resource right here and a lot of people aren’t aware of it — well, we’re going to open doors and make sure people know that we’re here — and that we’re here to honor our veterans,” Juan said.
She said her priorities include expanding publicity via social media and especially outreach to schoolchildren.