- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 13, 2007

New to D.C.? Meet Linda Harper, a community leader who can really show you the town.

As the new executive director of Cultural Tourism DC, Mrs. Harper will lead a nonprofit coalition of 185 community groups that try to bring the District’s history to life.

“My hope is that visitors and residents of D.C. will better understand the history of Washington, and explore the exciting neighborhoods that make up this city,” she said.

Founded in 1996, Cultural Tourism DC promotes awareness with programs such as the Neighborhood Heritage Trail and the African American Heritage Trail.

The group’s illustrated street signs mark the historical significance of seven D.C. neighborhoods: Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan, U Street, Capitol Hill, Southwest, Mount Pleasant and downtown.

“I have always been interested in historic preservation and watching the way communities grow and change,” Mrs. Harper said.

She moved to the District from her hometown in St. Joseph’s, Mo., 20 years ago to work for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving historic places.

Since 2000, Mrs. Harper has been chairwoman of the Association for the Preservation of Historical Congressional Cemetery, a nonprofit group that rebuilt the Congressional Cemetery on Capitol Hill.

During her six-year tenure with the organization, she recruited more than 500 volunteers and generated more than $7 million to preserve the cemetery where 19 senators and 71 representatives are buried.

“We transitioned a neglected and isolated site into a cultural landmark with a lot of help from the local community,” Mrs. Harper said. “It was great to see how community involvement takes place at a nonprofit level.”

The board members of Cultural Tourism DC are hopeful that Mrs. Harper will be able to draw on her previous nonprofit experiences in her new role.

“Linda understands how D.C.’s culture and history can be used to promote neighborhood pride and economic development, and that is what our organization is all about,” said Michael Fitzpatrick, chairman of Cultural Tourism DC.

Mrs. Harper said she wants to make sure the organization is well-funded and well-respected and encourages D.C. residents to celebrate their communities.

The group has 12 full-time employees and an annual budget of $1.79 million.

Mrs. Harper will become executive director of Cultural Tourism DC in July. In the meantime, she will begin building her senior management team and developing the organization’s strategic plan for the next three years.

Mrs. Harper received her undergraduate degree in humanities from Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Mo. She also pursued graduate level work in art history at the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri.

She lives in Arlington with her husband.

— Bryce Baschuk

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