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ImagineIF Foundation executive director steps down

by TAYLOR INMAN
Daily Inter Lake | April 27, 2023 3:33 PM

ImagineIF Libraries’ biggest fundraising partner is seeing another executive director exit, this time after just a year on the job.

Adam Tunnell took on the ImagineIF Foundation’s executive director position in April 2022 after sitting on its board for three years. He served as the group’s treasurer for a portion of that time.

Tunnell, who could not be immediately reached for comment, submitted his resignation last week, said ImagineIF Foundation Board President Sara Busse, who sat in for Tunnell at Thursday’s meeting of the library system’s trustees.

She told trustees that the foundation’s board met to determine a path forward after accepting his resignation. They identified several areas of importance, with the Bigfork Library Project at the top of their list.

Busse said her board lacks a timeline for hiring a successor to Tunnell. She and other board members will represent the foundation at ImagineIF trustee meetings until further notice.

Before taking on his role at the ImagineIF Foundation, Tunnell worked as the general manager of the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store in Kalispell. He has worked with local organizations since 2009.

Tunnell told the Inter Lake in April of last year that he was familiar with the topics of tension surrounding ImagineIF Libraries and declared himself ready for the challenge.

“As more and more things started happening, as the need was shown, I thought about [it] long and hard. I discussed it with my family … I looked at the position with the library foundation as my talents and passion were needed there and I’m excited to continue to support the ImagineIF library system,” Tunnell said at the time.

During his tenure as executive director, the nonprofit made strides to develop the site of the new ImagineIF Bigfork branch. The project has been several years in the making, with the foundation buying the Bethany Lutheran Church Ark Building for $475,000 in December 2018 with the hopes of gifting it to the county in the future.

Fundraising efforts paused when the Covid-19 pandemic began and the project remained in limbo until last spring. At the time, the Flathead County commissioners had indicated they were unwilling to accept the transfer of the building.

The ImagineIF Board of Trustees ultimately accepted the building on behalf of the county last June after language in the agreement more clearly stated when the transfer would occur.

Busse updated trustees on the project at Thursday’s meeting. She said foundation representatives recently met with architectural firm Cushing Terrell to discuss preliminary design plans for the new Bigfork building. Because the cost of building materials has increased since the plans were crafted in 2018, they have had to put it out to bid again.

Busse expected to receive those estimates in early May.

Tunnell took over for former executive director Charlotte Housel, who resigned in February 2022. At the time, Housel cited burnout and a strained relationship with library trustees as reasons for departing. Her tenure as the foundation’s head began in 2017.

The ImagineIF Library Board of Trustees signaled their intent to improve relations with the foundation last year — though book challenges, rising tensions between community members and library staff, and a loss of funding due to board decisions continued to divide the organizations.

Reporter Taylor Inman can be reached at 406-758-4433 or by emailing tinman@dailyinterlake.com.