Fort Worden Lifelong Learning Center Public Development Authority to bring on Georgia man as general manager

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — A Georgia man who is a veteran of the hospitality industry intends to accept an offer by the Fort Worden Lifelong Learning Center Public Development Authority to become the fledgling organization’s general manager.

“Over the past few years, I have specialized in unique projects,” said Michael Deighton from his home in Alpharetta, Ga., on Thursday.

Deighton said he had verbally accepted the offer and intended to send in a formal acceptance. He will begin the new position Feb. 3.

The general manager’s salary is $85,000 per year with another potential $20,000 in incentives and bonuses, according to the offer letter.

“This is a unique situation,” said Deighton, who declined to give his age.

“With all its partnerships, it will be a critical part of Port Townsend’s economy.”

State Parks is scheduled to cede management of part of the park May 1, according to the terms of a 50-year lease signed Nov. 8.

The public development authority will oversee the campus portions of the 434-acre park, which includes most of the buildings, for educational purposes while State Parks continues to manage the camping, beach and recreation areas.

The public development authority board voted unanimously Wednesday to extend the offer to Deighton.

Deighton’s experience dates back to 1992, according to his resume.

Deighton has worked in a variety of locations but for the past few years has headquartered his operations in Alpharetta, north of Atlanta.

Most recently, he served as interim general manager for the Ti Kaye Resort and Spa in St. Lucia in the Caribbean.

Before then, he was general manager of Lighthouse Lodge and Cottages on California’s Monterey Peninsula, which is where he heard about the public development authority position.

During his career, he has worked in several short-term jobs in the hospitality industry, many of them as a consultant.

While between jobs, he began looking in the Pacific Northwest to be closer to his wife’s family in Poulsbo.

Deighton and his wife, Katherine, have three children: two grown and one of school age.

Deighton will find a rental property at first and move his family at a later date, he said.

Deighton said the public development authority is well prepared for the management transition.

It has raised the more than $300,000 startup costs required in its lease agreement with Washington State Parks, Executive Director Dave Robison said last week.

“The board and Dave Robison have done an excellent job of getting the wheels turning,” Deighton said.

“Everything has already been set into motion.”

He added that he wants to focus on marketing.

“We will need to find ways to better promote the facility, using social media as part of the marketing plan, so we can draw both the individual traveler and the conference business.”

Board member Norm Tonina, who conducted the general manager job search, said about 120 people answered the job advertisement, which he winnowed down to 12 semifinalists.

After interviewing all 12, he selected four, but two dropped out, one because of another job offer and another due to the salary, which is low for professionals in the hospitality industry, Tonina said.

The other finalist was Port Townsend resident Maureen Mitchell Bennett, who owns and operates Casa Sirena Vacations Rental and Property Management — which she said she scaled back in 2012 to the point that she now manages only her own property — and has 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry.

Tonina said “something happened when I was checking Michael’s reference that has never happened to me before.

“Three people used the exact same words, ‘calm, fair and firm,’ which are characteristics we are looking for in this position.”

The offer includes a relocation allowance of $7,500 and states that Deighton is eligible for two $10,000 “performance bonuses” in November and May, although he would not be eligible for a bonus until this November.

While supporting Deighton’s hire, board member Bill James opposed the performance bonuses, saying he preferred permanent salary adjustments.

With the offer to Deighton pending, the board has begun winnowing down applicants for the hospitality manager position.

About 13 people will eventually work for the public development authority out of its office in Fort Worden State Park.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 23. 2014 6:47PM
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