Chairman of the Local Government Association and former leader of Kent County Council, Lord Bruce-Lockhart, is to take the chair at English Heritage.
Lord Bruce-Lockhart has farmed in Kent since 1968
He will begin the 90-days-a-year job, at a salary of £45,000 per annum, for a five-year term on 1 August.
Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said he was ideally placed to lead the organisation, which advises the government on the historic environment.
"English Heritage will greatly benefit from Sandy's leadership," she said.
"He has a distinguished record in public life - particularly in local government.
"It will be a busy time for the new Chair, including taking a key role in the implementation of the White Paper, Heritage Protection in the 21st Century."
Lord Bruce-Lockhart was Conservative leader of the county council from 1997 until 2005.
He leaves his post at the Local Government Association in July.
"This is a terrific time to be taking on such an important role," he said.
"The nation's built heritage is as loved by the public as it has ever been."
Lord Bruce-Lockhart has farmed in Kent since 1968, having spent his youth as a farm worker in South Africa.
He qualified at the Royal Agricultural College and is married with three children.