Betsy Davis is boat school's new director

By Leader Staff
Posted 9/2/14

From Seattle to Port Hadlock, Betsy Davis is leaving The Center for Wooden Boats to take the helm at the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding.

“We are excited and fortunate to have attracted …

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Betsy Davis is boat school's new director


From Seattle to Port Hadlock, Betsy Davis is leaving The Center for Wooden Boats to take the helm at the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding.

“We are excited and fortunate to have attracted such a talented and experienced leader as Betsy Davis,” said David Blessing, NWSWB board president. “Betsy brings extensive experience in business and organizational development, and is the ideal visionary to help lead the school strongly into the future.”

Davis served since 2003 as the executive director of The Center for Wooden Boats (CWB) in Seattle, where more than 150,000 visitors a year are invited to use traditional boats, participate in hands-on workshops and field trips, and build friendships and community. During Davis's tenure, CWB saw the extensive growth of programs for youth and the public, the addition of two campuses, and the improved stewardship of its collection of historic boats.

Jake Beattie, Northwest Maritime Center executive director, worked six years under Davis.

"I credit her mentorship, guidance, and positive example as the cornerstones of my own development as a non-profit leader," Beattie posted this week, as his organization crews for this weekend's 38th Wooden Boat Festival. "She is simultaneously smart, compassionate, big picture focused and detail oriented, and the hardest working person I've ever met. The world of maritime education is lucky to have her for another post, and the greater Port Townsend community should brace themselves for big things."


Davis played a leadership role in raising more than $7 million for capital projects, and CWB received numerous awards for organizational excellence regionally and nationally. She also helped build the collaboration of maritime and cultural non-profits who together have created a new “center for heritage” at Lake Union Park.

"She led the team that found the investors" in the new Lake Union Park, which opened in 2010 and includes the new site of the Museum of History and Industry in the former Armory building, the Virginia V Foundation, CWB and the Northwest Seaport maritime heritage organization.

“Betsy’s commitment to ‘raising all boats’ is extraordinary,” noted Catherine Collins, executive director of Sound Experience, which owns and operates the historic schooner Adventuress. “She has a unique ability to bring people together to reach common goals, and we are thrilled that Betsy will continue to lead in the preservation of our collective maritime traditions.”

For her part, Davis is looking forward to the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.

“It is an honor to join the team at the boat school because it is so highly regarded and recognized internationally for teaching excellence. I know from personal experience that attending boat-building school can be life-changing. With able teachers, I learned skills, traditions of craftsmanship, and most importantly how to approach solving complex problems. I am already so touched by the warm welcomes from the community here, and I’m inspired by the authentic craftsmanship thriving county-wide, the rich maritime trades, and the many opportunities for collaboration.”

Davis is to begin as executive director this fall.

She succeeds Peter M. Leenhouts, who resigned in early July after two years as boat school executive director. He departed to prepare for his presidency of the East Jefferson Rotary Club in 2015. Under his helm, the boat school had its accreditation renewed, doubled enrollment, and enhanced graduation and employment percentages for alumni.


Davis brings more than a decade of corporate management experience at Microsoft, entrepreneurship and small business ownership, and extensive non-profit and fundraising leadership. She was a founding member of the South Lake Union Chamber of Commerce and is a Charter Member of the Rotary Club of Lake Union, has served on the board of the Museum Small Craft Association and as co-chair of the Pacific Northwest Maritime Heritage Council.

Blessing said Davis "was by far the most prepared of any of the applicants" for the position, turning the interview around with a number of questions for Blessing and Michael Delagarza of the boat school. She asked about "business policies ... how we function ... a good bit about our fiscal situation," Blessing said. "She wanted to understand the governance" of the school," he said. "We helped her understand that we usually live hand-to-mouth. We've been doing that for 34 years," he said.

"I'm flattered that she would consider us," said Blessing. "She'll move this organization further than ever."

Blessing also said the board is refocusing on the school's mission of teaching boatbuilding and less on side projects and displays.

Sean Koomen, Boat School chief instructor, said, “Betsy’s leadership comes at a wonderful time. Our enrollment has grown significantly over the last year. Her strong vision and regional connections will enable us to grow both in our relationships with the community and within our own organization.”

The school invites the public to meet and welcome Davis at a reception at 5 p.m., Sept. 15, at the school, 42 N. Water St. in lower Port Hadlock.

The NWSWB is an accredited, private nonprofit vocational school whose mission for 33 years has been to teach and preserve traditional and contemporary wooden boatbuilding skills while developing the individual as a craftsman.

For more information, contact David Blessing, President
NWSWB Board of Directors