PORT TOWNSEND — The Fort Worden Public Development Authority’s new board has elected its officers as the group prepares to begin work in earnest.
The eight new board members met for the first time on Wednesday morning. There the new chair, vice-chair, secretary and treasurer were given a high-level explanation of their roles.
The Port Townsend City Council appointed the new board on July 19, replacing the former members, all of whom had resigned after a nine-month restructuring of the public development authority (PDA) was completed.
The city council appointed Brad Mace to Position 1 for a one-year term, Celeste Tell to Position 2 for a one-year term, David King to Position 3 for a two-year term, Eva Webber to Position 4 for a two-year term, John Begley to Position 5 for a three-year term, Rodger Schmitt to Position 6 for a three-year term, Victoria Brazitis to Position 7 for a three-year term, and Nauschard Cader to Position 8 for a one-year term.
Term lengths were assigned at random to the new board members.
During discussions Wednesday, the members came to a consensus to discuss the term lengths over the next six months or so and reassign them as needed.
The number of term lengths (three one-year terms, two two-year terms and three three-year terms) will remain the same, just possibly assigned to different board members, which the board has a right to decide, said Interim Executive Director David Timmons.
Heron Scott, from the School of Wooden Boat-building, and Port Townsend Mayor Michelle Sandoval are also now involved with the board as liaisons, with Scott serving as the stakeholder partner liaison and Sandoval as the city council liaison, in accordance with recent code changes that the City enacted in April.
The new board elected King as the new chairperson of the board, with Schmitt serving as the vice-chair, Begley as treasurer, and Weber as secretary.
“Thank you all for your vote of confidence and dropping me into the deep end of the pool,” King said after he was elected.
The PDA staff gave the a new board members a summary of the history of the PDA and how PDAs operate in general, as well as highlighted the importance of complying with the Open Public Meetings Act.
Joan Rutkowski, PDA public records officer and executive coordinator, reassured the board members that she will be on hand to assist with public records compliance, working with the team’s attorney, and said she plans to meet with individual board members for further training.
“I care a lot about this from both my perspective here as a public records officer and as a person who went into the field with a lot of the ideals about the importance of open government,” Rutkowski said, adding that she is a former journalist,
As of Thursday, the board’s next regularly scheduled meeting is set for Sept. 22. A special meeting may be held in August, Rutkowski said.
The restructuring of the board follows financial issues brought to light in February 2020 before the COVID-19 shutdowns began. The state auditor’s office released a report saying that the PDA had finance-management issues to correct based on reviews in 2016 and 2017
Issues included late submissions of the annual financial reports, failure to disclose debt and that staff members tasked with preparing the financial statements lacked the technical experience needed to perform their duties.
While the PDA began to address the internal financial issues, the pandemic hit, and Fort Worden was forced to close due to the subsequent shutdown. The agency received no funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Timmons has said previously.
The PDA lost what it computed to be millions in potential revenue. Restructuring separated the hospitality sector of the from maintenance and other programs within the Life Long Learning Center.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]