Daniel Finley

Autry National Center's former president, Daniel Finley, in 2010. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times / June 21, 2012)

Daniel Finley, the president and chief executive of the Autry National Museum, has abruptly stepped down from the institution after just two years on the job. The Autry said Thursday that it had named W. Richard West Jr. as its new president and CEO.

West's appointment will take effect in the fall of 2012, with an exact date to be announced later, according to a spokeswoman for the Autry.  

Finley took the top position at the Autry in 2010, coming from the Milwaukee Public Museum. He has been succeeded on an interim basis by Luke Swetland, the museum's head of exhibitions and operations, according to the Autry spokeswoman.

[Updated: 8:40 p.m.] Finley's departure from the museum was an amicable one, said Marshall McKay, the board chairman of the Autry, in a phone interview late Thursday. He said that he is grateful to Finley for his service to the Autry during a financially difficult period for the institution.

McKay said that the decision to change leadership at the Autry was based on the museum's need for someone with expertise in Native American history and culture.

West served for 18 years as the founding director of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian in   Washington, D.C.    After leaving the Smithsonian in 2008, he joined the Textile Museum in Washington as its interim director.

Born in San Bernardino and raised in Oklahoma, West is of Native American descent and is a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes.

In 2007, the Washington Post named West as among a group of managers at the Smithsonian who engaged in spending abuses. West reportedly spent lavishly on travel, and he eventually agreed to repay $9,700 in expenses.

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