Port Townsend Marine Science Center chief to retire

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — A sea change is brewing at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, now that its longtime executive director has announced her retirement.

“I have informed my board and my staff that it is now time for me to retire,” said Anne Murphy, 61, on Friday.

“I'm doing this now because the staff and the organization are in a good place,” she added.

“We are all on the same page and have the same vision.”

Murphy has served as the center's executive director for 24 of its 30 years of existence.

“It will be an interesting challenge to replace Anne,” said Linda Dacon, who chairs the marine science center's board of directors.

“She has been such a strong part of what we have done for so long,” Dacon said.

Board members “are glad that she has generously agreed to stay with us until we find someone, so we aren't rushed into making a decision or forced to appoint an interim director while we search,” Dacon added.

Murphy and Dacon are developing a job description and have formed a search committee.

The panel includes Dacon, board members Stephen Cunliffe and Eric Harrington, and citizen representatives Al Bergstein and Eveleen Muehlethaler.

Dacon said that she'd like to post the job by mid-February and that it could take until the fall to find a replacement.

Murphy's salary is about $60,000. She said she hoped that the center could offer up to $75,000 for a replacement.

The facility, located at Fort Worden State Park, provides educational programs and exhibits centered around the study and preservation of the Salish Sea.

Recent projects include an exhibit about orcas in the sound centered around the carcass of a killer whale that was discovered in 2002 and a project that documented the effect of discarded plastic on marine wildlife.

The marine science center has seven full time staff members and relies heavily on volunteers.

“We have the best volunteers,” Murphy said, noting that they are of all ages.

“When they come here, they know they aren't going to just do a shift. Their passion is their mission,” she said.

“They are meeting people and doing things that focuses on leaving a healthy legacy on the Salish Sea and one of the reasons they come back is because of how it makes them feel to accomplish something.”

In 2009, Murphy earned the Magnuson Puget Sound Legacy Award for exemplary service to Puget Sound and its marine life.

The annual award by People For Puget Sound is named for Sen. Warren G. Magnuson, who passed legislation protecting marine mammals and prohibiting supertankers from entering Puget Sound.

Murphy received the Eleanor Stopps Environmental Leadership Award in 2006, a marine science center award that recognizes people on the North Olympic Peninsula who are stewards of the environment and have demonstrated leadership in efforts to protect the natural world.

It is named for a woman who was responsible for the 1982 establishment of the Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge. Eleanor Stopps died last April at the age of 92.

After her retirement, Murphy plans to spend more time with her husband and do more traveling and gardening. She also wants to get into better physical shape, she said.

“She'll really be missed,” said Program Director Jean Walat of Murphy.

“She's kept the organization on mission and financially stable through hard times and good times.

“She's really gutsy and doesn't get scared off by things that might happen,” Walat said.

“She takes on a task and makes it work.”

The marine science center, which is on the beach at Fort Worden, consists of the Natural History Exhibit and the Marine Exhibit.

Only the Natural History Exhibit is open during the winter, from Nov. 1 through March 31, with hours from noon to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for youth from 6 to 17, and free for children 5 and under.

Admission also is free for marine science center members.

For more information, see www.ptmsc.org/index.html, phone 360-385-5582 or 800-566-3932 or email info@ptmsc.org.

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

Last modified: January 28. 2013 6:38PM
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