Accountant, father appointed to Port Townsend School Board and will be sworn in March 10
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Nathanael O’Hara, right, talks with Port Townsend Schools Superintendent David Engle. — Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — An accountant with three small children will be the newest member of the Port Townsend School Board.

Nathanael O’Hara, 36, will be sworn in at 6 p.m. March 10 at the Gael Stuart Building, 1620 Blaine St.

“He brings some skills to the board that we don’t have today,” said board member Anne Burkhart in her motion to appoint O’Hara on Monday.

“His experience as a CPA and his familiarity with all the confidentiality issues are real strengths for this position,” she said.

Burkhart’s motion received unanimous support from the other board members: Holley Carlson, Pam Daly and Jennifer James-Wilson.

O’Hara — whose children are 7, 4 and 2 — said later that he would bring a different perspective to the board because he is the only member with school-age children.

In her motion to appoint O’Hara, Burkhart lauded “his involvement in the community, the fact he has young children and his commitment to maintaining the direction that the district is going.”

He was one of two applicants for the position.

Both he and the other candidate, Anji Scalf, were interviewed in separate half-hour sessions Monday, followed by a 45-minute executive session before the board decided on their choice in open session.

“I think we were very fortunate to have two qualified people apply for this position,” James Wilson said.

O’Hara will fill the unexpired term of Bill LeMaster, who resigned in December for personal reasons.

An election for a full four-year term will be conducted in November 2015.

In her motion to appoint O’Hara, Burkhart lauded “his involvement in the community, the fact he has young children and his commitment to maintaining the direction that the district is going.”

O’Hara, a Sequim native now living in Port Townsend, is a certified public accountant with of Gooding O’Hara & Mackey PS of Port Townsend.

“My financial understanding will be an asset,” O’Hara had told the board.

“I have the ability to look at budgets and programs and ask the right questions. I look at the numbers, and use data to drive my decisions.

“I’m a good listener and don’t always know the right answer,” he added.

He serves as treasurer for the Port Townsend Rotary Club and the Port Townsend Cooperative Playschool, coaches soccer for Jefferson County Parks & Recreation and serves as volunteer bookkeeper for the Jefferson County Food Bank.

Scalf, 29 — a 2002 graduate of Port Townsend High School and the mother of a 10-year-old daughter — became manager of the only public pool in Port Townsend in May 2010.

She is a volunteer assistant coach for the Port Townsend Swim Team, a board member of Jefferson County Community Network — which advocates substance- and child-abuse prevention — and a volunteer costume designer for the theater production of the OCEAN (Opportunity, Community, Experience, Academics, Navigation) education program.

“I am connected with the region and the school district,” Scalf said.

“I have first-hand experience with the school district and have a really great institutional knowledge about the school district and this area.”

The seat is for District 3, defined by Jacob Miller Road on the west, Discovery Road on the south, the Strait of Juan de Fuca on the north and San Juan Avenue, 49th Street and Hendricks Street on the east.

Both candidates were asked the same 10 questions, which included two hypothetical situations and solicited ideas for improving the school district.

Both candidates asked the members of the board to tell what had motivated their service on the board, which is without salary.

Burkhart, a retired educator, said she wanted to represent those of her generation on the board.

James-Wilson said she joined the board after her children were grown and she wanted to stay involved in the schools.

“The high point for me was when I attended my first graduation and presented the diplomas,” she said. “The first time I did that, it took my breath away.”

Carlson said she wanted to put forth a positive message about the schools.

“The good things that are happening in the schools are not being promoted or talked about,” she said.

“It’s always the things that are not as favorable that people choose to focus on.

“Whether it’s the media or the parents or whatever is rumbling through, the story isn’t being told.

“When there is something negative, the room is full, but when we are talking about the budget or the new maritime initiative, the room isn’t full.”


Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or

Last modified: February 25. 2014 7:12PM
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