After four and a half years at the helm of the National Trust for the Cayman Islands, general manager Frank Roulstone has tendered his resignation, effective 6 March.
Coming hot on the heels of National Trust education programmes manager Marnie Laing leaving the organisation to take up a position as director at a new education project, Sea Elements, this has caused some speculation as to the health of the National Trust.
However, Roulstone is quick to assure the public that the National Trust has never been in better shape.
‘We’re in good financial condition, we have a good staff, we’ve managed to achieve a lot in four and a half years,’ says Roulstone.
‘I think that we’ve created a lot of good will in the community so it’s not like the organisation is on the verge of collapse – quite the opposite actually. Sometimes it’s a good thing to step out when an organisation is doing well.’
Yet it has to be asked why Roulstone has chosen to resign with the organisation doing so well. According to Roulstone it comes down to a difference of opinion on how to take the organisation forward.
‘I just think that sometimes you get to a point where you just can’t really continue under the circumstances and it is much easier to take one person out of the situation. So for me stepping out is the easiest and least damaging option,’ says Roulstone.
In spite of his quite sudden announcement, Roulstone harbours no bitterness and intends to remain involved with the National Trust.
‘My involvement in the organisation will not end. My role as general manager will end but I’ll continue to be involved in the organisation as I have been for many years because I believe in it,’ he says.
When Roulstone took up the reins four and a half years ago, the National Trust was a far cry from the organisation people see today.
‘When I joined the organisation I was basically the only employee with one administrative assistant so there was basically two of us,’ he recalls.
Shortly after he took office, Hurricane Ivan swept through the Cayman Islands, changing things dramatically.
‘It was tough going in the early days but it really has allowed me the tremendous benefit of being able to recruit and hire people. I didn’t start out with a bunch of people, I was able to recruit and hire the people I felt would be good in the organisation,’ says Roulstone.
Over the years the organisation has had a number of successes, with Roulstone seeing the heightened profile of the organisation as the greatest achievement during his term.
‘People recognise that the National Trust is not a land-grabbing, land-stealing type of organisation but a part of the community and an organisation that is willing to do its part in helping the community. So I think that probably the greatest achievement we’ve had is trying to maintain the respect of the general public,’ he says.
In more tangible achievements the Trust has also acquired in excess of 600 acres of new environmentally sensitive areas, as well as rebuilding the Mission House in Bodden Town, as well as acquiring two more historic properties, one in West Bay and one in Cayman Brac.
‘I can’t think of anything that can be more satisfying than that,’ says Roulstone.
In spite of all the successes, Roulstone is quick to point out that success is more often than not tempered with disappointment.
‘This job is basically an exercise in frustration,’ he laughs.
‘I am very proud that we’ve been able to set aside 600 acres, but in the time that we’ve preserved 600 acres the country has managed to destroy any number of thousands of acres of land,’ according to Roulstone.
The setbacks are far outweighed by the successes, and Roulstone is quick to point out that the success of the organisation is due to the work of a dedicated team.
‘It is very good to be able to sit back and very proudly speak about what the organisation has been able to achieve, and I would never take credit for singlehandedly doing anything in this organisation. This is something that has been a joint effort, not just for me, but our volunteers and the rest of my staff, everybody has been a part of this.’
In spite of the occasional setbacks, Roulstone remains very positive about the future of the National Trust.
‘We’re not run like the poor stepchild anymore,’ he laughs ‘and I’m sure the organisation will continue from strength to strength to build up and play its very valuable role in the community.’