About Gary

Background and Overview

I was born June 5, 1965, in Burbank, California, to Francis Gary and Claudia E. “Sue” Powers. My parents instilled in me at a young age that all persons are to be treated equally regardless of ethnic origin, gender, possessions, race, religion, or other cultural biases. Because of my family upbringing, I was always encouraged to volunteer in order to give back to the community in which I live. As a result, I have dedicated my life to public service and nonprofit management.

Over the course of my career, I have worked with boards of directors, chambers of commerce, teachers, students, volunteers, members of Congress, members of the Virginia General Assembly, related staff members, and a variety of national, regional, and local business, nonprofit, educational, and community leaders. I have testified before the Congressional House Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation, and Public Lands and the General Laws Committee of the Virginia General Assembly.

As a result of my educational efforts to preserve Cold War history and educate students, the Junior Chamber of Commerce selected me as one of the “Ten Outstanding Young Americans” for 2002. I hold a Bachelors’ of Arts Degree in Philosophy from California State University, Los Angeles, and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration / Certification in Non-profit Management from George Mason University (GMU), Fairfax, Virginia.

The Vienna Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce

From 2001 to 2005 I had the privilege of working for the Vienna Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce (VTRCC) as its President/CEO. While President, I oversaw the day-to-day financial, business, and human resource operations of the chamber and worked with Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) to strengthen educational and business partnerships. In order to grow chamber membership, I successfully implemented the 2003 campaign to incorporate Tysons Corner into the name of the organization. As a result of the name change I oversaw the development of the Chamber’s new website (www.vtrcc.org), increased sponsorship revenue, and expanded circulation of its monthly newsletter, The Enterprise, into the Tysons Corner market. Under my leadership, chamber membership grew by eighty percent (80%).

As spokesperson for the VTRCC, I worked with members of the press, elected officials, school officials, educators, business owners, and community leaders to promote the vibrant business environment of the Vienna Tysons area. I worked with the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority and numerous town, city, and county personnel to build consensus on key issues that affected Northern Virginia. My leadership style combined with guidance from the VTRCC board of directors and support from community leaders allowed me and my staff to successfully implement the goals and objectives of the organization. It was a team effort.

The Cold War Museum

In 1996, I founded The Cold War Museum, to honor Cold War veterans, preserve Cold War history, and educate students on this period of world history because students often equated the U-2 Incident with something to do with the U-2 rock band. From July 1996 to June 2005, I volunteered for The Cold War Museum prior to assuming the Museum Director position in October 2005. During my time with the museum, I guided The Cold War Museum forward fundraising over $3,000,000 in financial, artifact, and in-kind donations. I actively negotiated with the Smithsonian Institution for affiliate museum status, developed mobile exhibits, coordinated teacher workshops, organized spy tours of Washington, DC, created a quarterly email newsletter distributed to over 10,000 subscribers, and implemented an assortment of educational programs. In December 2009 I negotiated a lease with Vint Hill Economic Development Authority to secure a permanent home for the museum in Fauquier County, Virginia.

I am pleased that what started out as a grassroots effort has turned into an international museum with chapters located in Germany, Illinois, Kazakhstan, Puerto Rico, and Wisconsin. However, in December 2010 after nearly 15 years with the museum, I decided that it was time to step down as Museum Director so that new ideas could be added to the organization and I could pursue other interests. I was honored when the museum board of directors offered me a position as Founder and Chairman Emeritus on the Advisory Board. In this capacity, I no longer oversee the day to day operations of the museum, but do provide feedback and institutional history on occasion when asked by the board or new museum director. In October 2010, before stepping down as Museum Director, I was presented with a proclamation by Delegate Scott Lingamfelter and Clerk of the House of Delegates, Bruce Jamerson, on behalf of the Virginia General Assembly for my work to establish The Cold War Museum in Virginia.

Lectures, Exhibits, & Spy Tours

As the founder of The Cold War Museum, I have had the opportunity to lecture internationally, nationally, and throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia on the U-2 Incident, the need to preserve Cold War history, honor Cold War veterans, and educate future generations about this period of world history. As a result, I have established numerous relationships with educators, merchants, business owners, public officials, and community leaders in all parts of Virginia, and beyond. In addition, I appear regularly on the History, Discovery, and A&E Channels and I am called upon by news media outlets for commentary.

In order to promote the creation of The Cold War Museum, I created a mobile exhibit on the U-2 Incident and have displayed it internationally for the past 15 years. The mobile exhibit promotes interest in the artifacts and memorabilia on display at The Cold War Museum. In 2014 it will be displayed at the Palm Springs Air Museum and Blackbird Park in Palmdale, CA.

In addition, I have arranged for loans or donation of artifacts and exhibit material to American Government agencies (CIA, DIA, FBI, NSA, NRO), a variety of internationally recognized museums including the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, the USAF Museum, the KGB Museum in Moscow, the Diefenbunker Museum, the Virginia Historical Society, Gallery5, and other European museums.

While with the museum, I co-hosted annual receptions commemorating historical Cold War events and anniversaries with a variety of organizations including but not limited to the Bulgarian, Czech, German, Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Romanian, and Slovakian Embassies in Washington, D.C. In addition, I briefed dignitaries, military personnel, intelligence representatives, and various organizations on the mission and objectives of The Cold War Museum.

In collaboration with Carol S. Bessette, Certified Master Tour Guide, I helped to establish the Spy Tour of Washington for groups of 30 or more. Since its earliest days,Washington, D.C. has been the scene of international intrigue, espionage, and intelligence activity, as the U.S. government has tried to learn the plans of other countries while keeping its own plans secret. Key players in this non-ending drama include personalities as diverse as Rose Greenhow, Herbert Yardley, Major General “Wild Bill” Donovan, Aldrich Ames, and Robert Hanssen. This three-hour bus tour introduces guests to many of the locations in and around Washington, D.C. that have been associated with intelligence and counter intelligence activities for the past two hundred years. Past clients have included the Life Long Learning Institute, Google Earth volunteer corps, The Association of Old Crows, and The National Association of Realtors.

Published Works

  • Article, The Moscow Times,Moscow,Russia, February 7, 2012.
  • Article, The Moscow Times,Moscow,Russia, May 17, 2010.
  • Feature, Quest: The History of Spaceflight Quarterly,Bethesda,MD, 2010.
  • Chapter, The Most Dangerous Years: The Cold War 1953-1975, VMI,Lexington,VA, 2005.
  • Epilogue, Operation Overflight: Memoir of the U-2 Incident,Brassey,Washington, DC, 2004.
  • Congressional Testimony, HR107-Preservation of Cold War Sites, USGPO, W. DC 2001.
  • Sidebar, American Heritage Magazine,Forbes,New York, NY, September 2000.
  • Preface, Corona: The First NRO Reconnaissance Eye in Space,National War College,Washington, DC, 1997.
  • Chapter, U-2 Flights and the Cold War in the High North, Bodø Aviation Center, Bodø, Norway, 1995.
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