NEWCASTLE, Maine — The Frances Perkins Center has announced the appointment of Michael P. Chaney as its executive director, effective April 1.
A native of Alna, Chaney earned a B.A. in History from the University of Maine in 1979 and an M.A. in History, with a Certificate in Public History and Archival Management, from the University of Connecticut in 1985.
Chaney brings to the Frances Perkins Center many years of experience in non-profit management and public history in Vermont and New Hampshire. Early in his career, Chaney served as an archivist at the University of Vermont Library where his responsibilities included organizing the papers of the late Senator George Aiken.
He has also served as Associate Director of the New Hampshire Humanities Council, Chief Operating Officer of the New Hampshire Historical Society, and, from 2001 to 2009, President and CEO of the New Hampshire Political Library, a non-profit educational organization founded to preserve New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary.
In 2004, he helped merge the Political Library with the Pierce Brigade in operating and interpreting the Concord, New Hampshire, home and career of President Franklin Pierce. He is the author of several publications, including “White Pine on the Saco River: An Oral History of River Driving in Southern Maine,” and did field work photography in a publication dealing with Herb Ellis and Rangeley Boat Building, “The Rangeley and Its Region: The Famous Boat and Lakes of Western Maine.”
Since returning to Maine in 2010, Chaney has been the Executive Director of the Yarmouth Historical Society in Yarmouth. He lives in Alna with his wife, Laura Cooper Chaney.
Christopher Breiseth, chairman of the board of directors of the Frances Perkins Center, expressed the board’s pleasure in Chaney’s appointment. “Michael’s interest and scholarship in American political history, and his direct management of special historic collections and properties, perfectly match the mission of the Frances Perkins Center,” Breiseth explained, in a press release.
In accepting the position, Chaney stated, “I am honored to begin work with this nationally significant organization based at the homestead of Frances Perkins. From Newcastle, this Center calls attention to the economic security programs established in the New Deal by Secretary Perkins and the Roosevelt Administration, demonstrating their enduring relevance in the 21st century.”
The mission of the Frances Perkins Center is to fulfill the legacy of Frances Perkins, principal architect of the New Deal, by continuing her work for social justice and economic security and preserving for future generations her nationally significant family homestead. Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor under Franklin D. Roosevelt and first woman cabinet member in U.S. history, descended from the Perkins family, Newcastle residents since the mid-eighteenth century, and considered the Perkins Homestead there her home. The Center has an office in Damariscotta with an exhibit on the life and career of Frances Perkins, who is known as “The Woman Behind the New Deal,” the title of a recent biography by Kirstin Downey, a member of the Frances Perkins Center Board. Miss Perkins is perhaps most identified with Social Security, which she helped establish in 1935.