PORT ANGELES — The nonprofit Clallam County Economic Development Corp. will strive for more gender diversity on a board of directors now made up entirely of men.
The EDC board members who met Tuesday agreed to increase the 15-member panel to 17 and said they would consider adding board members who also reflect more gender, economic and geographic diversity than the current panel, which has no representation from the Peninsula’s West End.
And the board will consider allowing its approximately 150 members to have greater participation in selecting board members.
Board Vice Chairman Jim McEntire, a former Clallam County commissioner, helped draft the bylaw changes that board members reviewed Tuesday.
The board met in November and discussed expanding the board “to achieve the important goals of some gender diversification,” he told meeting participants.
McEntire said it was important that the EDC adhere to the legal requirements of an associate development organization, defined as “a local economic development nonprofit corporation that is broadly representative of community interests,” according to state law.
“We’re all middle-aged white guys on the board,” he joked.
Four upcoming board openings and the additional slots — the two new ones and an additional opening created by EDC CEO Bob Schroeter leaving the board — should open the door to greater business and geographic diversity, McEntire said.
“We still lack, at this point, some true West End participation on the board,” he noted.
“It’s not for want of trying.”
McEntire said he would review suggestions for the bylaws made at Tuesday’s meeting with Schroeter and bring them back to the board at a meeting early next year.
Proposed changes will include provisions giving greater power to EDC members to choose board members through nominating committees drawn from the general membership.
EDC member John Brewer, former editor-publisher of Peninsula Daily News, said the bylaws as presented Tuesday appeared to consolidate too much power in the board and not enough among EDC members.
McEntire said those aspects of the bylaws were already in place but the board directed the EDC staff report back to the board on expanding membership participation in board decisions.
Brewer said Wednesday he was satisfied his concerns were met.
“Everyone realized that more needed to be done, and I’m sure it will be,” Brewer said.
Schroeter said Wednesday that the efforts at diversity will be modeled after diversity goals and procedures pursued by Peninsula College.
Schroeter said he expects an advisory committee to be formed — a majority of whom will likely be women — that will focus “on how to recruit individuals with a more diverse background to the board.”
County Commissioner Mark Ozias wrote a Dec. 1 letter to EDC board Chair Doug Sellon praising the direction of the organization but criticizing the board composition.
The board was cut in half three years ago to achieve more effectiveness, and the EDC has become less reliant on public funding and more focused on business and nonprofits instead of government participation.
In 2018, the organization will derive about $100,000 of its $300,000 to $350,000 budget from tax-supported entities including Clallam County, the cities of Port Angeles and Sequim and Olympic Medical Center.
Clallam County has budgeted $60,000 in 2018 to the EDC compared to $125,000 in 2017.
The contract with the county has yet to be signed for 2018.
“I cannot and will not continue to be supportive of a publicly-financed organization that shows no commitment to gender diversity in its top-level leadership,” Ozias said in his Dec. 1 letter to Sellon.
The lack of gender diversity is “a significant problem” that “really jumps out at me,” Ozias said at Monday’s work session, which Sellon attended.
Ozias said he would have “a very difficult time” supporting the EDC without “a commitment to diversity, specifically gender diversity, on the board.”
Sellon pledged in a response Tuesday to Ozias before the EDC board meeting that action would be taken on Ozias’ concerns before the end of this month.
“It has been a step-by-step process and will continue moving in that direction until the [board] composition changes have achieved gender diversity,” Sellon said.
Ozias said Wednesday that the action the board took Tuesday “sounds like a really positive step.”
He said he will wait to see how the EDC board has addressed gender divesity before committing to fund the organization.
Commissioner Randy Johnson expressed diversity concerns about West End participation on the board at the Monday work session and reiterated that message at Tuesday’s EDC board meeting.
“No other organization can actually represent the entire county like this entity can,” said Johnson, who stepped down as EDC chairman in December before being sworn in as county commissioner.
Board members who participated at the meeting Tuesday included Schroeter, board Secretary-Treasurer Ryan Malane of Black Ball Ferry, Port of Port Angeles Commissioner Steve Burke, Kokopelli Grill owner Michael McQuay, Lumber Traders owner Kelly Fox, Peninsula Daily News Publisher Terry Ward, and Luke Robins, president of Peninsula College.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].
Terry Ward, publisher of the Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum, serves on the Economic Development Corp. board of directors.