Carolyn Bennett, executive director of the Foundation for Historical Louisiana, announced her retirement Wednesday after 40 years with the organization.

Bennett was the first full-time staffer at the Baton Rouge nonprofit, which seeks to preserve the state’s architectural and cultural heritage.

“I just want to acknowledge and thank the persons who have been by my side and made these 40 years possible,” she said.

With Bennett at the helm, the foundation has preserved numerous historic landmarks across the state, including the Old Governor’s Mansion, where the group is now based.

After moving to Louisiana with her husband in 1974, Bennett got her start with the foundation after responding to a 1-inch classified ad in The Advocate, she said.

“I always had a passion for architecture, storytelling and people,” Bennett said. “Preservation was a natural fit.”

In the years since, she has helped save and preserve historic Baton Rouge buildings such as the Heidelberg Hotel — now the Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center — and the Lincoln Theater.

“Some people look at preservation as stopping progress,” Bennett said. “The way we look at it, preservation is progress.”

Looking back at her tenure, Bennett said she has no regrets, except that she wishes she could have saved more landmarks.

“I wish I could have done more. The foundation is going through a time of exciting change and I look forward to being a part of it,” she said.

The foundation has launched a nationwide search for Bennett’s successor, said Doug Cochran, chairman of the foundation’s board of directors.

Bennett will remain executive director until her replacement is named. She plans to remain with the foundation as executive director emeritus and as a consultant.

Follow Matt McKinney on Twitter, @Mmckinne17.