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The Bar Association of San Francisco has tapped a top Democratic fund-raiser as its new executive director, a move BASF officials hope will help generate more money for the cash-strapped organization. Martha Whetstone, an emergency management consultant and former political director for the Democratic National Committee, is expected to start work today. She replaces Teveia Barnes. Barnes resigned Feb. 5, but is remaining at BASF through mid-April to help her successor make the transition. Whetstone was a leading contender for the job in 2001 when Barnes was hired instead. BASF’s board or directors was seeking a replacement for Drucilla Ramey, who had held the post for 17 years. Barnes’ tenure lasted just 14 months and was complicated by financial troubles at the association and turmoil among the organization’s 90-member staff. Jeffrey Bleich, BASF’s president and a Munger, Tolles & Olson partner, said Whetstone is inheriting a stronger organization than the one Barnes took over. “[Barnes] weathered the toughest period the bar has had and brought us to a safe place,” Bleich said. “She had special challenges because of a financial situation that wasn’t her doing, but she got us through it.” Because of an accounting error made the prior year, BASF faced a significant shortfall in its 2002 annual budget. The nonprofit organization was also facing a falloff in dues and grant funding. In July, BASF was forced to cut 16 staff members to help bring expenses more in line with revenue. Whetstone’s fund-raising experience as a former political director of the Democratic National Committee is considered a major plus given BASF’s financial challenges, Bleich said. “This is a tough fund-raising environment for all nonprofits, and that’s an important skill,” Bleich said. “There may be a lot of people who will become more interested in the bar because of their prior association with Martha.” Whetstone said she is undeterred by the tumultuous time Barnes had in leading the organization. “The only way I view it is as a great opportunity,” Whetstone said. “I’m excited about the programs, and the rest will work itself out, and I’ll have to see about that when I walk in the door.” Whetstone also seems to harbor no bitterness at having been passed over in October 2001, when BASF’s board announced it had hired Barnes. “I was grateful when they called back,” Whetstone said. “I would have chewed my arm off to take this job. It’s what I know how to do.” An Arkansas native, Whetstone graduated from the University of San Francisco School of Law in 1985 and went to work at Cresswell, Cake & Echeguren, an Oakland insurance litigation boutique. She became involved in President Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign as a strategist. From there, Whetstone spent four years with the DNC, heading the Northern California office. Whetstone also was an adviser to Al Gore’s presidential bid. In 1997, Clinton tapped Whetstone to head the regional office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in San Francisco. While at FEMA, Whetstone managed an office of 200 employees and an annual budget of $2 million, according to a BASF statement.

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