Kay Cole James to Step Down as Heritage Foundation President

Vice President Mike Pence greets Heritage Foundation President Kay Coles James before speaking about the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement at the Heritage Foundation, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, in Washington. (Alex Brandon/AP Photo)
Alex Brandon/AP Photo

Heritage Foundation President Kay Cole James and Executive Vice President Dr. Kim R. Holmes announced their resignations in a statement released on Monday.

This morning, Heritage Foundation President Kay Cole James, as well as Executive Vice President Dr. Kim R. Holmes, announced they would step down from their leadership roles within the venerable conservative think tank.

While Dr. Homes’ resignation is effective as of April 16, James will continue in her role for six months as the foundation chooses a replacement. After that, she will become a “distinguished visiting fellow,” and remain on the board of trustees.

Taking the reins in 2018, James was the first black president of the organization. Her tenure saw new outreach toward “young people, minorities, and women who don’t necessarily consider themselves conservative but who practice conservative principles in their daily lives.”

James oversaw the creation of the Edwin J. Feulner Institute in 2019, named after its founder and described as “a first-of-its-kind endeavor to restore confidence in America’s founding values and principles” and “reinvigorate every American’s appreciation for this exceptional nation.”

She also helped to establish the foundation’s Center for Technology Policy, an arm of the organization focused on “high-level policy solutions for the “ever-increasing roles the internet, artificial intelligence, and other advanced technologies have in government, business, and national defense,” and their “impact on public speech and personal privacy.”

Heritage Foundation Board of Trustees Chairman Barb Van Andel-Gaby praised both James’ and Holmes’ leadership, crediting their “tireless dedication” for the organization’s growth. In the statement, Van Andel-Gaby said:

I am incredibly grateful to Kay James and Kim Holmes for their leadership of The Heritage Foundation over the past three years. Their tireless dedication to Heritage has taken the organization to new heights, led to numerous accomplishments, and positioned the Heritage team to be ready for the battles ahead. Heritage today is the most important conservative organization in America because of their leadership.

“Working alongside Kay, I have come to know a caring and compassionate leader whose love for America is evident in all that she does” Van Andel-Gaby added, saying James’ decision to remain on the board was “great news for everyone.” The chairman then took a moment to express the seriousness of the societal issues at hand: “The fabric of our republic is being threatened,” she said, “and the talented scholars at Heritage are working harder than ever to push back on the progressive left in America. Heritage’s board stands with them as they continue to fight.”

James expressed her own gratitude for the chance to work with her fellow team members. “Over the past three years, Kim and I achieved everything we set out to do, and we did it with a terrific group of dedicated people who want nothing but what’s best for America,” she said. “It has been an absolute honor and privilege to work with them.”

“As a historian, diplomat, policy expert, author, and skilled manager, Kim Holmes has served The Heritage Foundation, the conservative movement, and our nation with distinction,” James said. “But even more importantly to me, during his tenure as executive vice president, his wise counsel and institutional experience have been invaluable to me.”

The numbers support the sentiments: During all three years of James’ leadership, “Heritage was ranked No. 1 in the world for having the ‘Most Significant Impact on Public Policy’ on the University of Pennsylvania’s Global Go-To Think Tank Index, as well as for ‘Best Use of Social Media and Networks,’ and ‘Best Use of the Internet.'”

Holmes called his 36 years of work for the foundation a “privilege,” thanking both James and founder Ed Feulner for their support and leadership. “I am deeply proud of our accomplishments and honored to have played a role in helping Heritage to be ‘True North’ for the conservative moment long into the future,” Holmes said. “I look forward to seeing the great successes yet to come.”

Heritage was founded by Ed Feulner in 1973, growing to become the foremost conservative think tank, and boasting over 500,000 members. In early February 2021, former Vice President Mike Pence joined the group, calling it “a flagship of the conservative movement.”


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