Retired Air Force Col. Dave Pinsky has achieved much as chief of the volunteer-run museum that sponsors the hugely popular summer air show at the Sonoma County airport, but the governing board of the Pacific Coast Air Museum last week pressured him to step down.
Several sources within PCAM said a growing number of members have found Pinsky's management style too autocratic.
Pinsky's announcement Wednesday that he will retire from PCAM following the Aug. 18-19 Wings Over Wine Country air show came two days after the nonprofit's board voted unanimously at a special meeting not to keep him on as executive director next year.
Several PCAM members said the board's action came in response to heightening complaints from members about Pinsky's often imperious and abrasive style. Some longtime members have stopped volunteering for the museum or have threatened to.
Pinsky said Friday he announced his retirement not because of anything the board of directors did but because he has been thinking of retiring for some time and believes this is the right time, given the good shape PCAM is in.
"I am retiring with my head held high," he said.
"Are there naysayers? Yes," he added. He said he's aware he has detractors within the museum but believes they number fewer than five. He said he learned from a 25-year Air Force career, 18 years as deputy director of the Santa Rosa Department of Utilities and seven years at the museum, "Leadership is not a popularity contest."
Pinsky said he does not know what prompted the museum board's vote Monday. He said leaders of PCAM have been aware they have done no succession planning, and he believes the vote may have indicated an interest in moving toward the selection of a new executive director.
He said he can't explain why the board would meet in special session and vote not to retain him, rather than initiate a conversation about the need to make a succession plan.
Some members critical of Pinsky have said they do appreciate what he has achieved for the museum as its first paid director, but that his propensity to run the volunteer organization like a military commander has put them off and taken the fun out of working at the museum and the air show.
The president of the PCAM board, Allan Morgan, downplayed the vote, saying that Pinsky and the board agreed the time has come for him to retire. But Morgan acknowledged on Friday that the board did in fact vote not to keep Pinsky on past 2012.
Morgan said that on Tuesday, the day after the vote, he spoke with Pinsky and they agreed he would retire effective Aug. 31 — after this summer's air show.
"We decided, really, it should be a retirement," Morgan said.
He acknowledged the PCAM board did not reconvene to amend or withdraw its vote not to renew Pinsky's employment. Morgan said he notified fellow board members by email that the issue of an extended contract for Pinsky was moot because he had agreed to retire.
Morgan said he wanted to make clear that "the board has a tremendous respect for Dave" and appreciates all he has done for the museum. Asked to address the issues that prompted the board to vote not to retain Pinsky, Morgan said, "That's really sensitive material" that he did not want to discuss.