Interim Clallam Economic Development Council director quits: ‘Too frustrating’

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

Smith’s resignation letter

To the entire Clallam EDC Board of Directors (via the Clallam EDC Officers):

1. After having attended this afternoon’s EDC Board of Officers meeting in the EDC office on a number of subjects related to Bylaws, Board functions, process and the future direction (Proposed Economic Development Summit) of the EDC, and finally ascertaining some degree of clear understanding and direction as to how I might best serve the organization as part-time interim Executive Director for what remains of my 120-day employment contract and then,

2. Learning that there was another meeting, held someplace else today, related to the future direction (Proposed Economic Development Summit) of the EDC that I was not invited to but which was apparently organized and attended by (A) “some,” though not all of the EDC Board of Directors - Funding Partners, along with (B) “some,” though not all of the EDC Board of Directors but not “all” of its Board members, nor (C) “all” of its Executive Board and (D) “none” of its Officers and (E) “some other persons?” and then,

(3) After receiving the following rather confusing e-mail, giving me direction from one Board of Director member who is not an Officer

I have come to the conclusion that I am unable to ascertain either (1) a clear understanding nor (2) a clear direction as to how I might “best” serve the organization as it continues wrestling with itself in an effort to determine “any” clear direction whatsoever.

After working the equivalent of far more than full-time for the organization for approximately 28 days now, I am still at a complete loss as to what future direction the Board of Directors, its “Funding Partners,” its elected officers and its Executive Committee can agree on.

Although I had hoped to help the organization through a brief, difficult period in its history, my best efforts have fallen short of accomplishing that goal.

I respect the fact that you are all trying your best, just as I have, unfortunately my best is simply not enough.

I will be in the office briefly on Monday to turn in my keys and retrieve a few personal items.

Thank you for the brief opportunity to work with you all in service to the community I know your each care for just as much as I do.

Best on all of your future endeavors.

Respectfully submitted,
Timothy J. Smith
PORT ANGELES — Tim Smith abruptly resigned his position Saturday as interim director of the Clallam County Economic Development Council just 28 days into the job.

He emailed his resignation to EDC officers at 6:19 a.m. Saturday.

“I’m resigning because I have a hard time getting clear direction from the board as a whole,” Smith said Saturday in a subsequent interview.

“The board itself is in total disagreement with itself.”

Smith, 59, who was being paid $29 an hour under a 120-day contract, said he will continue his efforts to bring together four Port Angeles business groups to work on common economic development goals.

Representatives of the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Port Angeles Business Association, the Port Angeles Downtown Association and The CEO Group will meet from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Vern Burton Community Center meeting room at Fourth and Peabody streets in Port Angeles.

“I believe in that and hope it goes forward,” said Smith, the business association’s vice president.

“That’s a challenge, too, but at least people seem to be willing to come and sit down together.”

EDC board President Brian Kuh said he had hoped Smith would reconsider his decision to resign, but Smith said Saturday his mind is made up.

“It’s just too frustrating,” said Smith, who was hired after longtime EDC Director Linda Rotmark resigned.

“I just feel like I am constantly spinning my wheels trying to get a clear direction for where it is the board wants to go.

“Perhaps by my exiting, the board itself will come together and get more serious about planning for the economic development future of Clallam County.

“I take it seriously. I know they do. But they have to find a way to collaborate.”

Kuh said Saturday that Smith’s resignation is “unfortunate.”

“This is very much a surprise,” he said.

Kuh said Smith and other board members had expressed frustration over planning for a regional summit of economic development groups, a process that involves the EDC, Peninsula College and the Washington State University Extension Service.

“I’d still like to talk to him to ask him to reconsider, but frankly, this may be more ground than he is wanting to cover, more than he originally signed up for.”

Kuh said EDC staff may have to expand their duties to fill the gap created by Smith’s departure and that he needs to talk to board officers “to determine the next step.”

Ken Hays, the board vice president and next in line for board president in 2015, said Smith’s resignation is “disturbing.”

“I feel like there’s something going on here, and I don’t know what it is yet, and it concerns me seriously,” Hays said.

“It’s a big problem because the EDC has some important scheduling milestones to meet [such as] records reporting back to the state,” Hays added.

“We have lots of irons in the fire.”

Several events occurred Friday that factored into his decision, Smith said.

He said in his resignation letter that he was upset he was not invited to an EDC summit planning meeting Friday.

“That was the linchpin” of his decision to resign, Smith said in the interview.

He also was disturbed by an email he received Friday from EDC board member Colleen McAleer, the newly sworn-in Port of Port Angeles commissioner and the port’s former director of business development.

“That was the final straw,” Smith said.

McAleer, whose whistle-blower complaint last year when she was a port employee led to the resignation and subsequent rehiring at a lesser position of longtime Port Executive Director Jeff Robb, emailed Smith on Friday about planning for the economic summit, Smith said.

“I just found it confusing,” Smith said of the email.

Smith had attended a meeting of EDC board officers earlier Friday.

“It didn’t seem to be in line with what the officers and I had discussed” at that meeting, he said.

McAleer said she was disappointed and shocked by Smith’s resignation.

“I was quite clear these were suggestions,” she said Saturday in an interview.

“It was meant to be helpful and supportive and take away part of his workload, as a suggestion, to get started,” McAleer said.

“I thought he was going to be absolutely awesome, terrific.”

In the email, obtained by the Peninsula Daily News, McAleer says she hoped Smith could set up an executive meeting soon and forward information on potential summit-related survey questions.

“I’m disappointed Tim decided to resign but also recognize this was a massive undertaking to get full community buy in,” McAleer said Saturday in a subsequent email.

Kuh defended McAleer.

“Colleen’s email was just encouraging that meeting to occur, which is completely consistent with the board and their expectations and what the officers discussed.”

Jim Haguewood, who is facilitating the Wednesday meeting of business groups, is a close associate of Smith’s.

“I was quite surprised,” he said of the resignation.

“He took that position with the belief and the desire to have some positive impact on both the organization and the community.”

________

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 25. 2014 9:57PM
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