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Aurora’s SciTech seeking new director

Then-SciTech executive director Carol Rehtmeyer demonstrates an exhibit Molex room downtown Aurormuseum February 2012. | Sun-Times MediFile

Then-SciTech executive director Carol Rehtmeyer demonstrates an exhibit in the Molex room at the downtown Aurora museum in February 2012. | Sun-Times Media File

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Updated: February 12, 2013 2:13PM

AURORA — The SciTech Hands On Museum in downtown Aurora is close to naming a new executive director to succeed Carol Rehtmeyer, who has taken on a new role in Texas.

Rehtmeyer has been hired as the new executive director of the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History.

“I’m still on the board and I’m still involved. I’m still here,” Rehtmeyer said of her current involvement at SciTech.

“I’m just not here as much.”

Rehtmeyer retains her position as vice president of the board at SciTech. She has served on the board for seven years and became executive director two years ago.

When Rehtmeyer took charge of the museum, outside funding was down.

“We did some really fantastic things” to turn the museum around, she said.

Rehtmeyer worked to find a new funding model for the museum, housed in the historical former Post Office building at 18 W. Benton St. The museum previously relied on outside sources for about 80 percent of its funding, but now SciTech is largely self-funded.

“In record time, we turned it around,” Rehtmeyer said.

In the last year, SciTech has received much of its funding through its own programming, facility rentals, events, and the STEM-based Discovery Preschool that SciTech launched in 2011.

However, the museum still comes up short on funding, which is something Rehtmeyer could never quite wrap her head around.

John Duggan, president of SciTech’s board of directors, said at times Rehtmeyer did not take a salary as executive director instead of laying off employees or sacrificing programming.

“We paid her as much as we could,” Duggan said. “It was an incredible act of generosity on her part, and we owe her a great debt of gratitude.”

Rehtmeyer said the museum continues to try to close a 20 percent funding gap.

Rehtmeyer said that city funding had dropped by about 50 percent, and outside funding from other sources had also dried up when she took over as executive director.

“There was a large hole to be filled,” Rehtmeyer said of trying to get the museum to be self-sustaining.

Rehtmeyer praised the museum’s curriculum and exhibits; she said that attendance went up almost double, to close to 100,000 annual visitors under her watch.

But in the end, SciTech is still underfunded, and Rehtmeyer said she needed to move on.

She said she found the city’s budget issues perplexing since Aurora has much more business and industry than many cities that fund local museums.

“I think the city has an obligation to make downtown Aurora viable by bringing in families,” she said.

Duggan said the museum is in the final stages of hiring a new executive director. He expects SciTech will announce its new director soon.

Stephanie Lulay contributed to this report.

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