June 11, 2018

Five questions with a busy Josh Sherretts

published on The Meadville Tribune
written by Mary Spicer

Josh Sherretts keeps busy. Very busy.

His day job is with Meadville-Western Crawford County Chamber of Commerce, where he serves as finance and technology coordinator, but that’s just the beginning. He also plays an active role with the Crawford County Historical Society, where he serves as president of the board of directors and, with the aid of what he describes as “a very dedicated staff,” runs the Baldwin-Reynolds House Museum. Then there’s the newly-formed Bull Moose Progressive Marketing, which Sherretts and Ron Mattocks of Cambridge Springs own and operate from offices in Parkside Commons.

What brought you to Meadville?

Sherretts, 31, grew up halfway between Saegertown and Conneautville and graduated from Saegertown High School in 2005. From there, it was off to Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in social studies and a bachelor’s in history.

“Graduating with two bachelor’s degrees just shows you I have no life,” he joked.

He met his wife, Kim, three months after graduation and they married a year after that, he recalled. Today, Kim is the archivist at the historical society and does some of the collections work for the Baldwin-Reynolds House Museum.

After living for awhile in Saegertown, the couple moved to the big city of Meadville, where they’ve lived across the street from the museum for the past seven or eight years.

What’s kept you in Meadville?

“Kim and I are both those weirdos who look at a sad, abandoned building and see what it could look like, not what it used to look like,” Sherretts said. “We’re the people who can walk into a house, not notice the wallpaper we don’t like and say, ‘Wow. It won’t take much to fix this up.’”

As a result, they’re in a “how do you fix it — how do you make it work” mode most of the time.

“We started with the Baldwin-Reynolds House,” he said. “Then the Tarr mansion became at-risk for demolition and we said, ‘Wait a minute. That has character. Let’s not tear down things right off Meadville’s town square if we can help it.’ And sort of went from there.

“What keeps us here is we’re of the opinion that if you don’t like how something is going, you get involved in it — which creates some problems when I remember that you can only get involved with so many things at one time if you want to have time to do things like eat, sleep and breathe. Unrealistic expectations, I know.”

What surprises you about Meadville?

“One of the things that just baffles me is that we have access to — or have in our own backyard — some of the most interesting things in the world. I think sometimes we take what we have for granted — most small towns do.

“For example, the Baldwin-Reynolds House is a national historic structure, yet 13 years after starting at the Baldwin-Reynolds House, I’ve run into people who are surprised to learn that Meadville has a museum. In fact, Meadville doesn’t have one museum. Meadville has two museums between the Baldwin-Reynolds House and the Johnson-Shaw Stereoscopic Museum. And it’s got the historical society and the David Mead Log Cabin.”

It isn’t just history-related attractions that are often overlooked.

“We have a local theater that puts on shows that rival theaters in towns far larger than ourselves and a museum that puts on programming with very much a Chautauqua (New York) feel to it,” Sherretts said. “We have a thriving council on the arts. We have a downtown that’s really bouncing back.”

In his work with the chamber, Sherretts often encounters comments about nothing to do in Meadville.

“We’re ‘Whoa!’ There are 17 thing to do this weekend alone — everything for those with sports interest to arts and culture interest,” he said. “It baffles me sometimes that we take our hometown for granted. In a lot of places I’ve visited, the local college sports team is vastly popular with the town. I don’t know too many people who go to an Allegheny game who live here, even though the college is working very hard to make those either extremely affordable or free.

“This may sound strange, but I’ve never had trouble keeping busy in Meadville. That’s probably why we didn’t leave.”

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

“Kim and I are the kind of people who like to go places,” Sherretts said. “New York City last year. We’ve got good friends who live in South Carolina, so we go down and stop at Asheville and the Biltmore. We’ve been to (Washington) D.C. several times, so for us calling Meadville home — having it as our home base — just makes sense because on a day-to-day basis there’s never a shortage of things to do.

“There are many days when I’m like, ‘OK. We’ve been running six days this week. Let’s slow down a little.’”

Do you have a wild and crazy dream for the Baldwin-Reynolds House Museum?

“We’re looking forward to expanding the museum side of the house, moving forward with more traveling exhibits and so forth. On the programming end, we’ve had concerts and lectures and that kind of thing that would be very reminiscent of the types of activities you’d go to the Chautauqua Institution for and we’d like to expand on the Chautauqua theme.

“We’re looking at setting up watercolor classes on the balcony, out in the air and overlooking the lawn. Every town in the country has that old house that everyone looks at as they drive by and tries to visit on heritage days, but we have the national connection with Henry Baldwin and we have three acres of property that could be utilized. Why is this not the cultural hub of Meadville, from classes to lectures to seminars, you name it? It should be, so that’s the direction we’re steering at the moment.

“The community seems to really embrace it, so we’re quite pleased.”

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