WEST JEFFERSON — The Ashe County Arts Council has found the successor to current and retiring Executive Director Jane Lonon in Jeff Fissel, they announced Monday, June 10.
Lonon announced in February she will retire at the end of the month after 38 years with the Arts Council, spending 31 of them as the executive director.
"From what I understand, I've got some pretty big shoes to fill and a lot of tradition to carry on," Fissel said.
The 36-year-old Appalachian State University alumnus has spent the past nine years as executive director of Historic Rural Hill in Huntersville, a historical site in the are he grew up. No stranger to Ashe County, Fissel said he has fond memories of visiting while in college, and looks forward to continuing to live in the mountains.
Fissel admits he leans more toward the business side of things versus the arts, but feels his work with nonprofits in the past will help him in his new position. He said he's had a deep love of the arts throughout his life, particularly music.
"I spend as much time seeing live music and being a part of live music as much as I can, even though I have no actual talent myself," Fissel said. "I've just found a way to support it. It's the same way with literary and visual arts, painting and photography, I have an appreciation and a love for all of it. I'll take any opportunity I can to see it and be a part of it."
Lonon said she will continue to work alongside Fissel up to her retirement, with the plan to help him along to fill her position. She said that while she wasn't involved in the hiring process, she is sure it was a good decision.
"I trust my transition team," Lonon said. "I trust the process they went through in finding the best possible candidate to fill this position to move the arts council forward."
Arts Council Board President Ed Perzel said in a statement that Fissel was the right man for the job, adding that his style, confidence and experience will help arts in Ashe County continue to thrive.