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LePard Hired As Oatlands Executive Director

© Leesburg Today - 10/28/2015

After an eight-month search, Oatlands Historic House and Gardens has a new leader.

Bonnie LePard on Monday took over as the new executive director. She replaces Andrea McGimsey, who resigned in May.

""I am sure she will prove a great asset today and in the future,"" Oatlands Board Chairman Michael J. O'Connor said, citing LePard's extensive experience in land conservation and fundraising.

With 13 buildings on the 415-acre property 6 miles south of Leesburg, Oatlands is known for its Greek Revival-style early 19th century manor house and gardens that have been called ""the most beautiful in America."" Oatlands was donated to the National Trust for Historic Preservation by the Eustis family in 1965. Although owned by the National Trust, the property is administered by a local board of directors.

While she does not come to Oatlands from the ranks of professional historic house museum management, LePard, 55, is a heavy hitter in the field of environmental and preservation law.

Professionally, she was an environmental crimes prosecutor for the U.S. Department of Justice and she led the successful 20-year effort to save the Tregaron estate in the Cleveland Park area in Washington, DC's. LePard was first board chair of the Tregaron Conservancy when it was established in 2006. In 2008, she became executive director of the organization, a position from which she retired in March.

Tregaron is a 1912 estate that includes an imposing house designed by architect Charles Platt and 20 acres of wooded gardens designed by landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman. LePard was a leader in the battle to save the estate from repeated threats of development. She was instrumental in establishing the 13-acre Tregaron Conservancy and to restore the parkland and gardens and open them to the public.

The Oatlands job became open at the right time for LePard. Her husband, Bruce Reed, who has been an economic and domestic issues advisor to the Clinton and Obama administrations as well as to Vice President Joe Biden, had taken a temporary posting in California and LePard was wrapping up her tenure at Tregaron. As her husband was returning to Washington, the Oatlands job was posted.

""I was very excited, so I threw my hat in the process. I feel blessed and fortunate to have been selected,"" she said.

Board member David Williams, a member of the Search Committee, said the decision was unanimous: ""She leapt off the page-it was not a close call.""

LePard, hired under a three-year contract with an annual salary of $115,000, has considerable expertise in historic preservation law and has many professional contacts at the National Trust. At the end of her first day at Oatlands, during which she met with senior staff members to get an understanding of their achievements and hopes for the property, LePard said she looked forward to bringing Oatlands into the future and sharing the house and gardens with a wider audience.

She hopes to continue to spend time with staff members, looking at their goals and ideas for improvements. She also plans to meet all the 29 Oatlands board members, donors and other community leaders.

""I want to look at new projects, things we can keep going-look at the calendar of events, to assess which are good,"" LePard said. She noted the success of Oatlands' educational and archeological programs, including research into Oatlands' enslaved community's history and its gardens.

Originally from Idaho, LePard received her bachelor's degree in English from Wesleyan University and a law degree from the New York University School of Law, with emphasis on environmental law. She and her husband live in Cleveland Park. They have two children-a daughter who teaches fifth grade in Chicago, IL, and a son who is in his junior year at Yale University.

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