Business & Real Estate

California Automobile Museum’s executive director leaving for Goodwill post

Karen McClaflin, executive director of the California Automobile Museum, is photographed with some of the cars on exhibit in March.
Karen McClaflin, executive director of the California Automobile Museum, is photographed with some of the cars on exhibit in March. Sacramento Bee file

Karen McClaflin, executive director of the California Automobile Museum in Sacramento, will leave that post to become chief development officer of Goodwill Industries of Sacramento Valley/Northern Nevada.

Her last day at the auto museum on Front Street will be Dec. 3. She will start in the Sacramento offices of Goodwill on Dec. 14.

McClaflin said Tuesday that she will miss “the relationships I’ve made here at the museum and the volunteers here. … And I’ll miss the cars.” She added that she’s excited about going to Goodwill as it “is doing so many good things in the community.”

Over the past few years, McClaflin was a central figure in the museum’s efforts to either upgrade the current building or find a new local home for CAM. Those efforts, which were periodically delayed or derailed upon reaching the Sacramento City Council for consideration, are ongoing.

On Tuesday, however, McClaflin conceded that the “ups and downs” of the new building search weighed heavily on her: “We’ve been at it for a long time, and I did sometimes feel like I got sucker-punched. … It’s been really tough, and I do think that the museum needs some new energy and leadership to take it to that next level.”

McClaflin was named executive director of what was then the Towe Auto Museum in November 2006. At that time, she was touted as someone who had extensive experience working with nonprofit organizations, overseeing fundraising, marketing and staff/volunteers.

Prior to taking the top executive post at CAM, she was executive director of the Pregnancy Care Center of Crescent City for 14 years. She also did a two-year stint as executive director of the ALS Association of Sacramento.

While openly acknowledging that she was not a car expert when she took the CAM job, she immersed herself in the Sacramento-area’s car culture, attending scores of regional automotive events, car club outings and museum-sponsored activities. She also went through the museum’s extensive docent-training course.

During her tenure, McClaflin helped diversify the museum’s collection of motor vehicles, overseeing floor placement of prized cars outside CAM’s once nearly exclusive stock of Ford models. Classic American-made cars were added, along with groundbreaking alternative-fuel vehicles. The museum’s motor sports display also expanded on her watch.

McClaflin encouraged aggressive marketing of the museum beyond the historical car hobby base. Numerous public outreach events became part of CAM’s annual calendar.

Perhaps most significant, she helped establish the CAM Car Cruise in 2009. The annual summer event, which includes hundreds of cars of all stripes, live entertainment and dozens of vendors, now draws thousands of spectators along Fulton Avenue, between Marconi and El Camino avenues.

The CAM board of directors will oversee the search for McClaflin’s successor.

Mark Glover: 916-321-1184, @markhglover