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Woodside: Filoli names new executive director

Kara Newport headed North Carolina botanical garden for a decade

Officials at Filoli, Woodside's historic mansion house and gardens, announced July 2 that it has hired a new executive director with years of experience in running a large botanical garden in North Carolina.

Kara Newport, who has been the executive director of the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont, North Carolina, for the past 10 years, will start working at Filoli on Sept. 1, a statement from Filoli said.

Ms. Newport will be Filoli's sixth executive director in 12 years. The most recent director, Cynthia D'Agosta, left abruptly in early November, slightly less than three years after her hiring. Months earlier, hundreds of Filoli volunteers had left their unpaid jobs at the historic estate rather than sign a controversial volunteer agreement.

Donna Colson, the president of Filoli's governing board, said Ms. Newport "is a visionary leader with over two decades of experience in the nonprofit sector."

Ms. Newport had also worked as vice president of development for the Discovery Place, a hands-on science museum in North Carolina; did fundraising for the Franklin Institute science museum and education center in Philadelphia; and worked for the Philadelphia Zoo.

When the Daniel Stowe garden announced Ms. Newport's resignation on June 29, officials said that during her tenure, attendance doubled from nearly 60,000 guests in 2005 to more than 123,000 in 2015. Membership grew from 3,500 members to nearly 6,000 over that time. The garden opened to the public in 1999.

The garden is open year around and, like Filoli, relies on a large group of volunteers.

Ms. Newport has a master's degree in public horticulture administration from the University of Delaware and a bachelor's degree in botany from Miami University.

She is treasurer of the American Public Gardens Association.

Ms. Newport will have some rebuilding to do at Filoli. In early 2015 hundreds of Filoli volunteers, including 80 who volunteered in the organization's nature hike program, resigned rather than sign a volunteer agreement. Volunteers told the Almanac that they felt the agreement left them open to liability while volunteering, and said they also objected to other clauses in the agreement.

One volunteer said the nature docents who had left had more than 250 collective years of experience as Filoli volunteers.

Ms. D'Agosta began working for Filoli on Dec. 1, 2012. She formerly served as the executive director of the Committee for Green Foothills, and was the first executive director of the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority.

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