PORT ANGELES — Mary Ellen Winborn, the elected Director of Community Development for Clallam County, has moved to Mississippi and says she is directing the department remotely.
“Our house sold faster than we thought it would and rather than pay to store our furniture we sent it home to Mississippi,” said Winborn, who is not seeking re-election to the Director of Community Development (DCD) position this year.
Winborn’s home was sold on May 22. She and her husband, Joel Winborn, are currently renting a home in Clallam County. Winborn has said that she will be in the county at least once a month, but will primarily work remotely from Mississippi.
She has not resigned and plans to continue working in her position, which pays $101,000 annually, until her term ends in December. She is a registered voter in the Clallam County.
“The processes are the same as they have always been,” Winborn said by phone.
”I attended a code enforcement meeting via zoom, I’m dealing with emails, and answering phone calls. I have been telling everyone to call my cell phone,” she said.
Clallam County is the only county in the nation in which the role of DCD is elected and not appointed by the county commissioners
Winborn said she is embracing the work-from-home life, and complained that the county did not allow the DCD to close with the other county departments during COVID-19 lockdown.
“They did not allow me to work remotely when COVID-19 was in full bloom,” Winborn said. “They said it was because the road engineer was going to give the service to the community that he always gave.”
The road department shares the same offices as the DCD.
This comment was disputed by Clallam County Commissioner Mark Ozias who said that every department/function in the courthouse remained “open to the public” in a variety of modified ways during the pandemic.
“The Department of Community Development shares a common space with both the Public Works department and the Environmental Health Department which meant that the main ‘front door’ to that combined office space was not closed and locked,” Ozias said.
Winborn said the DCD was ready to make the same commitment and had plans in place to keep everyone safe while continuing service.
“We were going to go out to people’s cars and pick up their plans. We had a table outside the office with a screen on it for people who wanted to meet us in the hall. We had it worked out, but they ( commissioners) wouldn’t let us lock the doors,” Winborn said.
Winborn has served as the DCD since 2014.
Donnella Clark, planner for the Department of Community Development, has taken on the brunt of the in-person work along with the staff.
She said she was too busy to talk with a reporter.
Joel Winborn resigned as director of the Clallam County Parks, Fair and Facilities Department.
He has been replaced by Dan Crawford, who will begin work next week.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected].