BISMARCK — The board tasked with planning the proposed Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum will meet four times next year, but only once in North Dakota.
Library foundation CEO Ed O'Keefe said the board's schedule includes meetings in Washington D.C. on Feb. 6 and 7; New York on April 28 and 29; Medora, N.D., on Aug. 17 and 18 and Boston on Nov. 16 and 17. An exact site for the library has not been chosen, but it will almost certainly be near Medora and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park on the western edge of North Dakota.
O'Keefe said the location of each East Coast meeting holds strategic significance. In the nation's capital, the board can confer with representatives from the Smithsonian Institution and the National Park Service. The New York meeting allows the board to visit Roosevelt's boyhood home and later residence, Sagamore Hill, and Boston provides proximity to Harvard University's extensive collection of Roosevelt's writings. Additionally, the meetings put the board in prime spots to raise money for the project, O'Keefe said.
O'Keefe, a Grand Forks native, said he and fundraising director Randy Hatzenbuhler would also be in Medora to hold community meetings and receive public feedback on the project throughout the town's booming summer season.
The 8-member board spoke about goals for the project and potential design concepts for the building at a meeting last week in Tempe, Ariz. Reporters were permitted to listen to the board's conversations through a conference call except during several private sessions to discuss fundraising.
The library foundation must raise $100 million to unlock a $50 million public endowment approved by state lawmakers earlier this year. O'Keefe said the goal is to complete fundraising efforts by the end of 2020, but the board has not disclosed its progress.
The foundation's unique status as a private non-profit that could eventually receive public funds has raised questions about how transparent the board's work should be. The foundation should try to mirror a public entity, and the board's discussions should be as transparent and inclusive as possible, O'Keefe said.
Before any shovels hit dirt, the board must elect a site for the library and bid out the project's design. O'Keefe said a project brief due to be released in mid-December will provide an overview of the board's path forward but that he hopes to have design submissions on the table by June 2020. That would give Medora and North Dakota residents an opportunity to weigh in at the August meeting, he said.
The proposed library in western North Dakota's Badlands is meant to honor and tell the story of Theodore Roosevelt, the former governor of New York who became the 26th president of the United States. After his mother and first wife died on the same day in 1884, Roosevelt set out for the Badlands and spent parts of three years hunting and ranching.
Iowa State University history professor Stacy Cordery said Roosevelt was able to rebuild his psyche during these formative years, and Roosevelt wrote that he would never have been president without the experiences he had in North Dakota.