Maritime Museum Hires New Executive Director

STURGEON BAY, WI – The Door County Maritime Museum & Lighthouse Preservation Society has hired a new Executive Director. Robert Desh, a retired captain in the United States Coast Guard, will assume his new responsibilities on Monday, Oct. 20. He becomes the fourth Executive Director in the museum’s history.

Desh spent 36 years in the Coast Guard rising through the enlisted ranks and culminating in achieving the rank of captain in 2004. He retired in the fall of last year.

Desh, who calls his new position “a dream job,” is a native of Nebraska. He developed a passion for the water early in life and a love for maritime history. He presently serves as the Executive Director of the Foundation for Coast Guard History and is Vice President of the Coast Guard Tug Association.

His ties to Door County began when he was stationed aboard the cutter Mesquite, when it was home-ported in Sturgeon Bay. He also served as Assistant Chief of the Ninth Coast Guard District’s Aids to Navigation Branch, overseeing icebreaking and aids to navigation missions. Ultimately, he was named Chief of Planning and Force Readiness at the Coast Guard’s Great Lakes headquarters in Cleveland. Twice he came in direct contact with the Museum as he helped coordinate the transfer of the Sherwood Point Lighthouse Fresnel lens from the light to the Museum in Sturgeon Bay. Later, he participated in the transfer of ownership of Cana Island from the federal government to Door County. The Museum oversees the daily operations on the Island under agreement with the county.

Desh has further ties to the county in that his wife Barbara (Schlise) is a Door County native from Forestville. They have two grown children. Desh earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of the State of New York and a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering Technology from the University of West Florida. He has also completed post-graduate study in Management at Florida Institute of Technology and Central Michigan University and is a graduate of the Command and Staff Program at the United States Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

Desh replaces Jon Gast, who has been serving as interim director since late May. Gast, a former executive director, stepped in after Brian Kelsey accepted the position of managing director at Peninsula Players Theatre.

The Museum operates three facilities. In addition to Cana Island, there is the year-round facility in Sturgeon Bay and the organization’s original facility in Gills Rock. Both Cana Island and Gills Rock are open seasonally.

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