Kay James Resigns From the Heritage Foundation

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

On Monday, the Heritage Foundation announced that its current president, Kay Coles James, will resign later this year. Executive Vice President Dr. Kim R. Holmes, who rejoined the Heritage Foundation when James took over in 2018, will resign next month.


“When we came on board as the executive leadership team three years ago, we set several goals and told Heritage’s board of trustees that we would serve for three to five years to see them through,” James said in a statement. “We accomplished everything we set out to do. Now it’s time to let someone else take the reins.”

Under the leadership of James and Holmes, Heritage ranked No. 1 in the world — out of over 8,200 think tanks considered — for having the “Most Significant Impact on Public Policy” three years in a row, according to the University of Pennsylvania’s Global Go-To Think Tank Index. It also ranked first for “Best Use of Social Media and Networks,” and first for the “Best Use of the Internet.” Heritage rose from number 13 to number 6 in the world for “Best Managed Think Tank.”

James will remain as president for up to six months until Heritage finds a replacement. After she retires, James will remain a Heritage distinguished visiting fellow, and she will remain on the board of trustees. Holmes’ resignation is effective April 16.

James had been a trustee on Heritage’s board since 2005 before rising to lead the organization in 2018. James led Heritage in championing individual freedom, limited government, free enterprise, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. She also pressed the organization to share its message with young people, minorities, and women who may not consider themselves conservative but practice conservative principles in their daily lives.


James led Heritage in addressing key public policy areas such as the economic and health recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, election integrity, immigration, combatting China’s global influence, Big Tech bias, improving education, tax reform, deregulation, and more. She also created the Edwin J. Feulner Institute, Heritage’s newest policy institute, and the Center for Technology Policy.

She also developed Heritage’s 14 “True North Principles of Conservatism,” laying out bedrock principles for the conservative movement. In her statement, James called this “one of the most profound, yet simple, things I did” as president.

“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. It has been an absolute honor and privilege to work with them,” James added.

Barb Van Andel-Gaby, chairman of Heritage’s board of trustees, praised James and Holmes in a statement. “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,” Van Andel-Gaby said.


“The fabric of our republic is being threatened, and the talented scholars at Heritage are working harder than ever to push back on the progressive left in America,” the board chair added.

Holmes’ history with Heritage traces back further than James’. He joined the organization in 1985 and became a vice president there in 1991. He was a founding editor of the annual Index of Economic Freedom. In 2002, he left Heritage for the U.S. State Department under President George W. Bush.

Holmes called it a “privilege” to work at Heritage. “I am profoundly thankful to Kay James and to Heritage’s founder, Ed Feulner, for their support and leadership over the years. Heritage is strongly positioned to provide principled conservative public policy solutions to the current challenges facing America. 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.”

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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