Robison will retire from Fort Worden post in November

Leader news staff
Posted 9/16/20

Dave Robison will retire this fall after serving as the executive director of the Fort Worden Public Development Authority for nine years.

Robison will retire on Nov. 15, the formal end of a …

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Robison will retire from Fort Worden post in November


Dave Robison will retire this fall after serving as the executive director of the Fort Worden Public Development Authority for nine years.

Robison will retire on Nov. 15, the formal end of a 30-year career of working to make Port Townsend a stronger community, according to PDA officials.

“It has been an honor to work for the PDA and to grow the organization,” Robison said. “The vision of the fort’s Lifelong Learning Center is inspiring and noble, and we are fortunate to have passionate partners and community stakeholders invested in the effort to make it work.”

Robison led the process, beginning in 2010, to form the development authority so as to co-manage Fort Worden State Park’s 90-acre campus.

Since then, with Robison as executive director, the organization grew from
14 employees with an operating budget of a little more than $1 million to a 2019 operating budget of more than $7 million and 170 employees during peak season.

Board Co-Chair Norm Tonina said Robison’s leadership has been key to the agency’s growth and vitality.

“Dave’s vision, passion, and ability to build and leverage a broad network of stakeholder relationships are what propelled the Fort Worden PDA’s progress all the way back to 2011, when the PDA was first chartered by the city of Port Townsend,” Tonina said. “As a result of Dave’s leadership, we have watched revenues and capital investment accelerate and the attraction of new and exciting lifelong learning opportunities from organizations such as the Port Townsend School of the Arts and Seattle Theater Group’s THING festival.”

Robison’s retirement has been in the works since last year, officials said. They began consulting with search firms with the capability to recruit candidates nationally, but put the plan on hold when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

According to agency officials: “With the successful resumption of limited lodging and restaurant operations, the board of directors is ready to take the next steps following Robison’s announcement.”

At the Sept. 10 board meeting, co-chairs Tonina and Todd Hutton will recommend that former Port Townsend City Manager David Timmons be offered an employment contract as interim executive director until the PDA is able to recruit a new executive director, according to the recent announcement.

“David Timmons is a proven leader who has the ability to guide a complex organization, build teams, and relate to a diversity of stakeholders,” Hutton said. “Since he began working for us, David has developed an even deeper understanding of the organization and is well positioned to serve in an interim role.”

Robison’s retirement will coincide with the expected date of the completion of Makers Square, a $12 million project to rehabilitate three historic buildings for a year-round community of makers, artists, and educators.

Robison said Timmons’ involvement has made it possible for him to focus on fundraising and finalizing plans for Makers Square operations and transition to retirement with confidence.

Robison’s career includes time spent working as a planner, and eventually the director of the planning department for the city of Port Townsend from 1990 to 1996.

In 1998 Robison became the founding director of the Northwest Maritime Center, overseeing the planning, design, fundraising and development of the maritime educational and cultural waterfront facility.

“I have been so lucky, honored and privileged to have been entrusted to work on many public projects that have helped retain Port Townsend’s special community character and guide its future growth,” he said.


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Larry Kallenberger

Would someone please explain how a festival that has happened once and had the vast majority of attendees coming from elsewhere be defined as a lifelong learning opportunity for our community. A concert promoter sold 5,000 tickets a day at prices that started in the hundreds for each of the two days and brought in well over 1,000,000 dollars(did I get enough zeros in there) in ticket sales. Would the PDA please inform the Leader and the community how much income was received by the PDA. Maybe it was so much that we could understand but so far I don’t believe we have read anything about it. The PDA operates in a circle of influence and seems to feel so independent that they do anything they want while local officials say they have nothing to do with it. When I contacted the city last year it was suggested the state must be responsible. I had contacted the Port Townsend PD over the weekend to simply inquire whether there were any sound limits at concerts at the fort and had been connected to county dispatch since the city contracts that to them. I was informed that PT police officers were there and they were sure that sound limits were being enforced. They didn’t know the details but were sure it was happening.

I had a nice conversation with a Sergeant at city PD shortly after event who informed me that there were no sound limits and they could be as loud as they wanted under their special events permit. He was willing to read me that section of the permit but couldn’t find a copy anywhere. He told me to call the city managers office since they issued the permit. I called the city managers office and a nice woman there told me the police department issues special events permits. I called the Sergeant back and told him they had issued the permit. He laughed and said “we did?”

If someone rolled up on your block with subs blasting out loud music most people would eventually call the police department(if it was a weekday). That is because loud noises or sounds are clearly a part of a city noise ordinance. When you read In the police blotter that police responded to such a call it always states that they asked the people creating a nuisance to move on and they do. So once I tracked down a copy of the mystery special events permit I saw that it was nothing more than a few handwritten notes and the only stated requirement that was listed was that the Seattle concert promoter visit with neighbors before the event. It was signed by a community relations person in the department. There was no reference to any waiver of the city noise ordinance. In fact, I do not believe the police department is likely to hold the power to waive official ordinances. Still they interpreted the lack of any words about noise that the Seattle promoter could make as permission to be “as loud as they wanted”.

I think the truth is that the ordinance applies to loud noises any and everywhere in the city limits the same way it does to some young people parking on your street rocking their deep bass subwoofers that rattle windows. The nice Sergeant told me that the city government rules apply to everything that happens in the portion of the fort that the state has contracted with them to manage. Basically that is most of the buildings on the campus. So everything from the moment you drive through the gates until you reach the Point Wilson lighthouse is a state park and likely always will be. So when people read that the fort is in financial trouble or it may fail they are talking about the portion managed by the PDA through a contract with the state. If anyone at the PDA thinks that means that they can hide behind state sovereignty I submit they are wrong. If it was in fact a sovereign state entity then the Port Townsend Police would not be responsible for enforcing the law in the section of the portion managed by the PDA.

City hall seems to think the state is responsible but the leaders of the police department is sure that section of the park is in their jurisdiction as a result of the contract with the state. . Still today in spite of that reality two separate calls(one a couple months ago when I saw in print that it was listed as one of Port Townsends annual events and wanted to know if a 2021 permit had been issued) to the PD were answered by someone who thought maybe the county or the state was in charge of what happened there. I wrote the city council thinking they might want to communicate to city staff and the community how that portion of the park functions and agree that all city codes and ordinances are in effect on the PDA area of the park. It makes me wonder but certainly hope that the PDA follows all city codes and ordinances including building codes and permits.

I was a little surprised that I received no response from the city since it was a very polite letter containing a lot of factual references and pointed out all of the confusion among city staff concerning jurisdiction over the fort. I live a mile from Fort Worden and the only two times my home and yard vibrated from bass thumping were the two concerts sanctioned by Fort Worden with the help of the police department interpreting the noise ordinance differently for some than others. If it is noise from a car parked on your block it is enforced but if it is the Authority it’s OK suddenly to look the other way. Someone has obviously decided that having a permit issued by the police means they are exempt from all city codes and ordinances. It can’t be so because some governmental unit at local, state or federal government levels is responsible for all land in the county unless it is tribal lands.

A few issues ago the Leader printed a viewpoint opinion piece signed by two PDA members. They were miffed that Rob Birman from Centrum had the audacity to say out loud that perhaps it would be better to let the private lodging facilities in the area provide accommodations for visitors. They also stated that it has been the practice of the PDA board not to discuss issues through the lens of the press. Are they kidding? When you are a public entity being open and seen through the lens of the press is the only way citizens know what is happening let alone know that the PDA is faltering financially. Editor Brian Kelly did then write a couple of news articles outlining the situation. In a nutshell after spending millions already in support of tourism they need(yes need) to spend more to refurbish more units to lodge tourists since they are dependent on ever growing income from visitors.

News flash-tourism will not be the same again once the pandemic effects are at least partly mitigated. Meanwhile people are developing new interests and new habits. Staycations are the future for many in an economy tilted toward the wealthy. To illustrate just how destructive dependence on tourism revenues can be to a community take the $150,000 requested of the county and provided to refurbish a building to house 15 seasonal employees who can’t find affordable housing in the community. First why do they need to bring in 15 more people who don’t already live In a housing unit here to staff their seasonal needs? More importantly it shows the bankrupt nature of what is now euphemistically called the hospitality industry. Once manufacturing jobs disappeared they were replaced by the lowest paying yet largest number of new jobs in the economy in hospitality. At a time when we mourn the loss of homeless people who die in our community we are spending $150,000 to provide seasonal housing for workers brought into the community. How many months do those units sit idle after being refurbished for people who come here to work a few months.

It is possible that a look at the PDA board composition contains part of the answer. Nothing wrong with older people like myself serving in roles where they can contribute their learning but it is not a well balanced board. It appears that all of the board is older white men and one woman. They are or have been associated with tourism promotion or college programs where hospitality training occurs. It is possible that the freshly scrubbed safe white kids brought in for the summer are there so that the tourists will not be frightened by people who they wouldn’t feel comfortable around. The board members who wrote the viewpoint opinion piece were very upset that their “visitors” are being confused about whether they will be able to come here this year. At a time when we are all sacrificing a great deal they are worried about people who don’t take the pandemic seriously enough not to travel and spread it further. That is one of the ways tourism sucks the soul out of good communities.

I have worked my whole adult life with smaller communities like Port Townsend. While towns that only a native could love pine for tourism there are many more that asked for help creating a more balanced economy and looking for ways to escape the Gordian knot. The jobs it creates brings in workers who can’t afford housing while they serve people that can. The industry then turns to government to spend more on tourism to attract more visitors bringing in money. The local government feels pressure from business interests to place a priority on their needs because by this point the city has become dependent on those revenues. Each time the community doubles down on tourism promotion more problems like the need for affordable housing become even more insurmountable.

Maybe a start would be using the dormitory style rooms refurbished to house summer workers to house people transitioning from homelessness to a home and a job. I understand it’s presence might frighten the entitled white guests that like an upscale experience with a little government support involved. My guess is that those summer workers the PDA sets aside housing for come from the training programs PDA board members support. We spent 150k for housing students so that they can eventually manage the low wage hospitality industry employees.

I have been told by people who have lived here longer than the four years I have been that I should not be critical of the PDA board but I have an instinctive reaction to look deeper when a public entity announces they don’t want to be seen through the eyes of the press. It can get a little hot but that is because we are still a democracy notwithstanding the seeming dominance of moneyed interests on behalf of the old elite guard.

As individuals often our worst point is our best point pushed too far. That is also true of communities and organizations. We are so intertwined with tourism needs that we can’t stop feeding the beast or we think it will die. People will still come here if we place higher priority on other community needs for a change. It is a beautiful setting with many very kind and wise people. Historically when I think of the history of this place I don’t think of the colonial interests that first explored and exploited the people and place. First I think of those that were here before that happened-the native residents. Then I think of the many young people often disillusioned with their nation who came here almost 50 years ago and revitalized the community and brought a soul into being.

It is recognized as a creative community with special beauty and special people. I didn’t move here because of tourism or tourism type events. I came here because I wanted to be among people who were not afraid to be themselves as they recreated a community with hard work and vision. I came here because I want to live in a place where people are progressively radical in the service of justice and equality. Radical is a word used to scare us but it is at its core the search for solutions to the roots of our problems including the desire to find radical solutions when the old ones don’t work.

I didn’t come here to upset anyone’s Apple cart and unless people here want to examine the roots of problems in the community I will retreat. I have PTSD following combat service and being drafted into the military. I came here to finally live in a quiet peaceful place where the dreams of radical hippies are still alive and being acted upon. What sparked my interest in Fort Worden governance was the way they react to people wanting to know more about what they are doing and their seeming feeling that they can do as they please. They do some great things and moving our excellent community radio station there is the most recent cherry on top of the treat. I think Centrum is just about the most valuable expression of creative talent and interest anywhere. It is world class but when the director there was chastised by PDA board members for making a suggestion that maybe the fort was more than a tourism promotion tool I knew it was time to speak up.

We have a community soul already even though it is clouded by our being knotted up with thinking we can’t make it any other way. We can still be a draw and maybe a bigger draw by being our authentic selves and providing a soulful place where people begin to realize there is more to any community than fitting the tired old tourist notion of what they want to do while visiting a unique place like this one. We could be the place where the millions of the Awakening generation who are now older can be reminded of what they wanted our country to be but couldn’t find anywhere else. We also can give this generation what we often didn’t get from even our parents after Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and even the bad part of LBJ. That missing thing that drove us to scatter around the country was a culture that would let us dream and act on those dreams to create a new world. It is our chance to provide that support to the younger people who sincerely want to make a stand in this community. The older farmers are working with younger people who want to farm but need to learn and gain access to land to grow organic food in sustainable ways.

It is a wonderful place with many great people...but we are not as welcoming as we may think. We are the oldest population in the state by a long shot and in the top ten in the nation in age. Port Townsend at last reading was the second whitest city in the state following Ocean Beach or is it Ocean Shores. We are not far behind though if our goal is to be the very whitest city in Washington. Besides the obvious moral questions surrounding that it is also necessary to change or eventually lose touch with the emerging world and country. In another twenty or so years there will be more people that are not white than there are white people. I don’t see us wanting to be the safe place for white people to visit and identify with because we remain a white community with, quite honestly, a very white tourist experience. Our Victorian buildings are unique but they do speak of the past when the rich people who lived in them were not at all who we are today.

We need to consciously move toward becoming less white if we want to be in touch with the changes coming. We also need to create a place where young people can find a future building on the work of pioneering people who arrived looking for a home away from the seeming insanity of what was going on in the rest of the country. How do we do that?

I don’t expect tourism to die. I realize that people have created business that depends on them and I understand why people want to visit. I am only suggesting we move away from total dependence on white tourism and begin to create a new economy that is rooted in this century. Recently Zillow with 800 employees announced that in the future almost all of their employees will work from home. They are just one example of the rapid pace with which business is making it possible to live in a place you want to be rather than within commuting distance of their company.

Our relative isolation was a barrier to many possibilities in the past but if we act with some dispatch we can attract well paid young people to move here since they no longer need to commute to an urban center. Young people are even less white as a group than the rest of the population so attracting young people dovetails nicely with the need to diversify and become more racially like the new population in the 21st century. Many of the best jobs are found as a results of connections and knowing people who have management responsibilities. That is the connection to not just bringing in younger people but giving an opportunity for our young residents to socially get to know people who can plug them into positions with their company.

Jobs are the key to housing solutions. The government will never be able to fill all of the gaps in our housing stock so we need to do it ourselves. We could begin by recognizing the opportunity and begin to portray ourselves in ways that attract the people we need to be a player in the new world we will be experiencing. We need them to keep us from becoming stale and even more dependent on older white tourist. Honestly I think the Fort Worden PDA board has tourism in its genes given that they have all been immersed in the hospitality business that is more a reflection of the last century than the emerging one. Well paying jobs means a stronger tax base, a more diverse population and the chance to attract visitors naturally to be part of a place with soul that is missing in much of our country.

If any successful tech company wanted to bring 100 or even 25 well paying jobs here without any subsidies or even the need for a new structure to house them I think the chamber of commerce and government leaders would jump to make it happen. That is our future and it is a bright future with young people and children who are as colorful as the nation itself will have become. They will enrich us and connect us to the world they see. Many of them will want or need our help as they adjust to their own new experience. That is the challenge to all the dreamers and doers who came here to follow dreams and hopes as they searched for a place to make a stand. We can make a difference to young people already here as well as the people who arrive to help bring us into the future. It is not love it or leave it. It is change it or lose it. We will still be a quaint small town without them but we can be a model for how small communities come alive again.

The people I have met here are mostly kind and non judgmental but we have habits that are not As welcoming as we say we want to be. I looked at a list of openings on city boards and read the application requirements. This is a place where people state the number of years lived here following their name to add gravity and emphasis to what they say. The application forms reflect that in the way they make it clear that you need to have been around and participated in many local organizations. It makes new people feel less welcome. Someone the other day after I told them my age said “you won’t live long enough to be considered a local”. There is a certain joking part of those comments but if you think about it a bit you may realize that young people see a town of old fuddy duddy white people who like it that way. For those who came here 40 or 50 years ago maybe you remember how it feels to not fit in right away with the crowd and culture already living here.

I realize that it is quite possible that most people will never see this long story or have the time to think about it. I am inspired though by the young people who are fighting for change and need our voice. Let’s live up to our radical reputation and be known for the way we make this turn rather than stubbornly cling to old models and economies of the last century. We wither when we don’t grow just as all life does. I will return to my peaceful life in the home that is my retreat from the madding world. All I wanted the city and the fort to do is a inexpensive sound study that would make it possible to not have thumping bass rattling my windows when I am in the one place where I retreat to feel at peace and live my humble life.

I have nothing against concerts though I don’t understand how a festival bringing in 5000 people a day needs only a handwritten approval by a police department who spends the weekend at the festival with six officers and ATV’s essentially providing security for a private concert promoter who is raking in well over a million dollars. They indicated they didn’t get a lot of complaints and didn’t know about my inquiry. Many people gave up on any objection because they knew the deal was done. Others called but when they found nobody answering the phone they didn’t bother to contact county dispatchers to find out who was in charge. The officers providing security at the event were not paid directly by the concert promoter but they were paid overtime which the promoter reimbursed the city for paying. Still it is hard to say no to a promoter in such a situation.

I want to say that I have never had a bad experience with any city employee. I have found in every single case nice helpful people who told me the truth as they knew it. I wrote the city council a letter last year telling them I thought it was a well run small community that’s biggest problem was just like every community in this state. The lack of any state income tax, even one that only applies to high earners and companies, robs everyone alike.

While we have high sales tax rates and growing property tax loads Amazon, Microsoft and all large companies literally don’t chip in at all to the needs of the people or local or state government. So everyone is nickeled and dimed for every service that can be taxed in any legal way while they have some of the largest incomes in the modern world. It will take an enlightened state Supreme Court to readdress the constitutional issue of the flawed decision rendered a hundred years ago on behalf of special interests.

Finally I will always have a subscription to the Leader which is an excellent paper as witnessed by the award presented to Lloyd Mullen for overall general excellence. There are times when it is better or worse run but it is a valuable part of this community as local papers are everywhere. Responsible journalism is a vital part of the democratic experiment and deserves all of our support. The new editor has stuck to professional journalism and that is not a simple job. I do think it is not only valid but necessary to criticize journalists and their publications when they deserve it.

I was dismayed at the outsized role the Leader played in endorsing and promoting the weekend long concert. They really ignored any complaints and defaulted to an all too common trope in our current national nightmare-name calling. The paper heaped lavish praise saying that not just a concert but one put on by this promoter is what Port Townsend needs. When I saw it more recently written about it was to announce that one of our community traditions would not happen this year due to the pandemic. That was when I realized that it was going to become that because some clique of people I don’t know has either been schmoozed into submission by a good promoter or just doesn’t want to have a community discussion. Anyone who had any concern at all about the weekend was ignored by the newspaper and called curmudgeons three weeks running.

If people have deluded themselves into believing that it is the will of the community to have this event become an important tradition they would be surprised at the result of an advisory question asked at a city election. I feel safe in my home and don’t want to leave for the weekend if I don’t want to hear it from a mile away. All I wanted was an inexpensive sound study that would go a long way to gaining full community support. I have been to dozens of festivals and even more concerts. Most of them weren’t in the middle of a small town or approved without discussion by a handwritten application approved by a police department that didn’t know they had issued it and treaded lightly or really not at all on noise enforcement required by city ordinance.

I have always said that good leadership is about knowledge of people and place and I do not have that. I don’t want to be n any position of authority or run for office but I have spent almost 40 years assisting communities in achieving their goals. I have been responsible for distributing over a billion dollars in federal and state grants

to help them succeed. My primary criteria was that the whole community needed to be behind the request before I would provide the seed money that led to other grants and loans from people who wanted their money to accomplish as much as possible.if there is a secret to obtaining grant funding it has to do with convincing the grantors that your community has a plan to be better in the future as a result of the funding. Lively community support is an important barometer in that decision making.

The times are changing again and those that change with them will survive and prosper. Staying the same is not a virtue but an anchor.

Thursday, September 17
HarveyW-Collateral Damage

Many dates in this story are incorrect. Time lines are off per my memory. That the revolving door that is Port Townsend (the FWPDA is an autonomous city influenced entity) looks to ex 20 year City Manager Timmons to replace good buddy Robison is no surprise. Timmons left the City 17 million in debt, helped deconstruct parking enforcement and ignored expensive parking plans and got an award on his exit. He was infamous for ignoring public input. Perfect for the top secret FWPDA. I have posted an email from him years ago admitting to parking problems and promising a fix. Years ago. His new clone continues the status quo traditions. Here's Johnny.

This comment of mine attempted to explain what the FWPDA is. I had told myself to take a break for a while and leave the Leader to 5 star trolls for a while. Technically this is nothing new so.....................,70311?comment_result=posted#comments-post

My Comment--

How did the property of all of the people of the State of Washington get here? Please correct me on anything I am about to attempt to simplify. I was aware of how a PDA can have the illusion of public participation but have a power core that is pretty closed off. Same as the current City Manager/Appointed Mayor/No Term Limit Council system Port Townsend changed to just over 20 years ago.

When Michelle Sandoval, then as now the Appointed Mayor of Port Townsend started the process to form the FWPDA and take title of all of Fort Worden from the People of the State of Washington, and put it into the hands of a relative few local power players I started writing letters to the editor of the Leader. The Editor on the Leader was on the FWPDA board. The Leader position was that this was a great and wonderful move. The "foundation" for the move were "stakeholders" who rented from Centrum.

That entity, Centrum, leased most or all of what is called the campus and sub let spaces to various businesses. Centrum kept the profits. There was a MOU Memorandum of Understanding with Centrum and the State that businesses would be inclusive and allow the public access, enhancing the park experience.....for all. Such as a wood school allowing public access and the public experiencing a culture being preserved. Just one example of many. The MOU was ignored and business were allowed to become or actually continue to be private non inclusive for profit entities. In the process these special interests came to be called "stake holders". Rolls off the tongue better than special interests. Their input was valued above all others such as myself and others that joined me including the Union that represented many park workers.

In my opinion the faulty foundation was not considered and only one plan, the FWPDA plan, which prevented any moderate income housing and other inclusive aspects from being included was considered. I wish all well but it seemed inappropriate that a person fired by the City for ethics violations became the Executive Director of the FWPDA. In all of the State was that the best or best controlled person for the job?

Repeated attempts to get the board or council of the FWPDA to have a broader State wide base to reflect the needs of all of the people were ignored. The power core was set. Other PDAs have a constituent element for at least the appearance of public participation. Not the FWPDA. This deal between the State and the FWPDA was a done deal before it started. My opinion and that of others. The back drop was the 2008 crash, so a very hurried time frame was claimed to be needed. Was it? State parks wanted out and was going to get out.

My vision was a "crossroads" where working artisans and the public could cross paths and inspire and educate each other. Small business at the Fort selling handmade items and some in Port Townsend one feeding the other were the business mode. A bit like mine in PT. I am still here and financially solvent. Even with Covid. Housing might have been a sweat equity or sponsored model. Everyone loves Centrum and what it seems to represent. What a pool of volunteers, the people rebuilding the peoples property with respect for those who served there and fought for all of us. What a pool veterans are. Give them a task and a result that benefits those among them that need housing. Not the FWPDA way. Exclusive. Not inclusive. Huge salaries for some.

I could go on, but most now as then are not really paying attention. Our cry of inclusive not exclusive went unanswered. The people slept through it all. Attempts to get regional news media to cover the takeover went nowhere.

We did succeed in getting the FWPDA down to a 50 year lease on the Campus. The campground stayed in State Parks hands. The first building rebuilt under the FWPDA cost $400 per square foot. I had just built a house for around $100. A "stakeholder" got a contract for some of the work.

There is false advertising calling the Campus a State Park. It is not. It is a private for profit entity. There is the State Park and there is a separate FWPDA Campus.

This story says “This effort will evaluate the commission’s Lifelong Learning Center vision for Fort Worden and assess the long-term financial viability of a conference center driven by partner-developed programming. This analysis will examine efficiencies of the hospitality business model, the mix between group, leisure and partner business, as well as assessing the cost/benefit of the services and the leases the PDA provides to resident partners at discount rates.”

Who saw that coming?????? So much more could be said. So much more can still be done. The state needs to take back the peoples property and replace well paid locals serving well paid locals. The bad foundation we warned of is crumbling and those that insisted on building on it are still players. The people should demand the return of their property to serve veterans and artisans and low to moderate income housing. I know the FWPDA is in no danger. You the public continue to be asleep. Please correct me if I am wrong on any point here. I write and continue in honor of all veterans who built Historic Fort Worden. What has been done here is simply wrong.

Thursday, September 17