The John and Sue Renaud Award for National/Tribal/State Leadership to Advance Historic Preservation at the Local Level
In her trailblazing work and long history of working to advance local preservation in Michigan, Nancy Finegood personifies the qualities celebrated by the John and Sue Renaud Award. During the 17 years Finegood served as the Executive Director of the Michigan Historic Preservation Network (MHPN), the organization enjoyed a period of expansion, a higher profile across the state, and numerous accomplishments largely due to her passion and leadership.
Finegood provided sound fiscal management for MHPN and embarked on programming that enhanced the organization’s mission and generated revenue. An example is the Tax Credit Partnership Program whereby MHPN brings together private investment for rehabilitation projects. This program, in turn, generated revenue that allowed the organization to increase its staff and expand into other programming areas. MHPN’s easement program, also created by Finegood, provides protection for two dozen historic properties and has been another source of revenue for the organization.
One such program that benefited from MHPN’s financial stability under Finegood’s watch is her preservation trades initiative “Living Trades Academy.” As anyone in preservation can tell you, finding qualified craftspeople to do the work of preservation is one of our biggest challenges. With one program, Finegood succeeded in helping to address this skill deficit while making it possible for unemployed individuals to find jobs and take pride in the history of their community.
Two preservation battles underscore Finegood’s tenacity and strategic thinking. In 2011, the Michigan legislature eliminated what had been a successful state historic tax credit program. For eight years, Finegood and her staff have advocated for its reinstatement. Preservationists worked diligently and recently succeeded in having the tax credit reinstated. It was recently signed by the governor and took effect January 1, 2021.
In 2016, legislation was introduced to weaken Michigan’s local historic district protection.
Preservationists across the country were concerned that, if successful, this anti-preservation tactic might spread to other states. Finegood created a statewide response asking concerned citizens to write letters to their local newspapers, email elected officials, and post on social media. She made public statements arguing that the proposed legislation was bad public policy and had little support. Ultimately, the governor and the legislature came to hear the large and loud voice in support of local landmark protection as it had stood for more than 45 years.
For those who have met Finegood, she is uncommonly warm, generous and down to earth. Giving of information, advice and her time, she understands that preservation is stronger when we all work together.