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Name and title: Paul W. Edmondson, vice president, law, and general counsel Age: 50 Preserves America: The National Trust for Historic Preservation, whose twofold mission is “to save America’s diverse historic places and revitalize our communities,” was congressionally chartered in 1949. It is a privately funded, nonprofit organization with more than a quarter of a million members, 300 employees and an annual budget of $50 million. “If a local preservationist realizes that the bulldozers are on the way, they call our office,” explained Edmondson. His team identifies the legal tools available to stop a demolition, block a highway or thwart unwelcome development on a threatened site, and locates local attorneys to fight the battles. The Washington-based trust also operates 25 historic sites that are open to the public and maintains six regional and field offices. The Legal Defense Fund, a program of legal advocacy and litigation in support of historic preservation, spearheads the trust’s goals and activities, and its easement program protects 100 historic properties nationwide. Since 1980, the trust’s Main Street Program has promoted economic growth through community revitalization. The trust works closely with groups including the National Parks Service, the American Planning Association, the Sierra Club and the Nature Conservancy on site-specific issues and broad policy matters. Eight years ago, it agreed to end federal funding in order to make the organization more independent. It is now supported by membership dues, fund-raising, contributions from members, donors (foundations and corporations), licensing programs and a for-profit subsidiary for community development work. Oversees all: “All the work the organization does touches on legal issues, and we’re very much engaged in all of those,” according to Edmondson. Under the umbrella of the Legal Defense Fund, which he directs, the trust participates in the preservation process, either in courts (usually as an amicus, sometimes as a direct party) or on an administrative level. It provides help to state and local governments trying to enact preservation laws and tries to direct the outlay of federal resources toward historical sites. It also organizes and sponsors legal workshops. Edmondson directs the easement program, provides corporate legal services to the trust, serves as the principal staff member overseeing Sarbanes-Oxley and other corporate governance measures, supervises the legal education and outreach programs, and directs its publications. He and his team also handle the legal work involved in the acquisition of properties, negotiate licensing agreements and deal with estate and inheritance issues. Saved/still endangered: His efforts in preserving three historic houses are among Edmondson’s highlights in a job he called “a real privilege and treat.” President James Madison’s Montpelier estate in Virginia and the “incredible modernist” James Farnsworth House designed by Mies Van der Rohe near Chicago are two notable successes, and a third, ongoing restoration project is Finca Vigia, the Cuban house where Ernest Hemingway lived and wrote The Old Man and the Sea. The trust’s GC recently returned from the site, which is the first outside the United States to appear on the organization’s list of most-endangered places. The 2005 list hints at the breadth and significance of the trust’s preservation palette. In addition to the Hemingway home near Havana, precarious gems include a swath of national monuments, historic trails and archeological sites stretching across 12 Western states; Alaska’s threatened structures of indigenous peoples; a 175-mile-long corridor of Civil War battlefields, presidential homes and African-American historical sites; and the historic buildings situated in downtown Detroit. Due to the trust’s efforts, asserted Edmondson, preservation is now accepted as a tool for economic development, as a positive influence on neighborhood stability and as a factor in ensuring viable communities. He warned, however, that in today’s “rough fiscal climate,” Congress is attempting to weaken preservation laws; for example, by targeting tax incentives for historic preservation. Legal team and outside counsel: The National Trust’s legal arm consists of Edmondson and what he called “a fairly large staff from a nonprofit standpoint.” He oversees a pair of deputies (one for corporate and the other for advocacy work); an associate general counsel with a mixture of duties; two assistant GCs; a grant-funded special counsel who focuses on public lands and Native American archeological-site issues; a part-time legal editor; and, “unusual for a law office,” a staff architect. Edmondson reports to the trust’s board and to President Richard Moe. Most of the legal support needed by the trust is provided through its in-house capabilities, but Edmondson turns to external counsel “fairly extensively and mostly pro bono” for preservation law advocacy, corporate matters and some specialized issues. Firms partnered with include: Steptoe & Johnson, Shea & Gardner and Arnold & Porter in Washington; Richmond, Va.-based Hunton & Williams; New York’s Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson; Nixon Peabody; Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr; and Ater Wynne of Seattle. Route to the top: Edmondson has been with the trust for 18 years, having risen through the ranks from assistant to associate to deputy general counsel. He reached his current status in 1996. His first six years after law school were spent as a federal attorney in a legislative branch agency, now known as the Government Accountability Office. Prior to launching his legal career, Edmondson obtained a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and archeology from Cornell University in 1976, and followed that up with a law degree from American University Washington College of Law in 1981. Personal: Edmondson, whose father was a career diplomat and African specialist, was born in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanganyika, now Tanzania. He and his wife, Susan, are the parents of Michael, 13, and Masha, 11. “Our two kids are the focus of my attention,” said the GC, who manages to squeeze in a bit of puttering in the garden in his spare time. Last books: Hemingway: A Life Without Consequences, by James R. Mellow, and Lincoln’s Sanctuary, by Matthew Pinsker (having to do with President Lincoln’s summer home, one of the trust’s historic properties). - Roger Adler

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