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Farm hires new manager

Greenbank Farm officials announced the hiring of a new farm manager at a special meeting Monday.

Effective immediately, Cheryl Sagmeister replaces former farm director Laura Blankenship, who resigned in April.

Tom Baenen, president of the managing board for Greenbank Farm, also welcomed Langley barber and community activist Paul Samuelson as a special consultant. Samuelson will work with the board under a four-month contract.

“I’m grateful to be a part of the moving-ahead process, working collaboratively with all of you,” Sagmeister told Greenbank tenants and staff. “It’s clear to me how much the board, community and volunteers love this place and I’m happy to be involved.”

“My dog loves it here, too,” she added with a laugh.

A Langley resident, Sagmeister has been a manager and consultant for such large-scale events as Seattle’s Bumbershoot and Northwest Folklife Festival, and was operations manager for ArtSource, Inc., a technical/graphics placement firm.

Samuelson has a long history of community involvement, having served on the South Whidbey school board and the board of directors for Whidbey Island Center for the Arts.

“I hope to establish a vision statement for the board related to the farm’s future,” Samuelson said. “Greenbank is a unique part of Whidbey’s landscape and I’ve been very impressed with the caring attitude I’ve run into by everyone here.”

Baenan noted that Sagmeister, Samuelson and the staff will now have time to develop new ideas for Greenbank’s continued success, wincluding scheduling more on-site events and increasing the support of its community volunteers.

“The Port of Coupeville has stepped forward to help maintain the buildings and property to assure the protection of their investment,” Baenan said. “This will give Cheryl and Paul a chance to help us create a positive vision for the future.”

Greenbank Farm has been the center of some controversy lately, stemming from Blankenship’s departure and a proposal to start negotiations with the Port of Coupeville over an early end to the farm management group’s contract for operating at the farm.

Baenan said positive things are in the farm’s future.

“We accepted an employee’s resignation and that clouded negotiations,” he said. “However, things at the farm will continue as before. We have a bright future ahead.”

Port commissioners are considering an early end to the management contract for Greenbank Farm, something requested by the farm board three months ago.

The current agreement between the farm and the port dates back to April, 2004 and has eight years left remaining in the contract.

Greenbank Farm has been owned by the public for nearly a decade. The Port of Coupeville owns and is responsible for the farm’s operations. The management group was formed as a nonprofit board of directors to preserve the aesthetic character, economic value and community use of the property.

The board expects a revised contract agreement to assign property management duties to the port while the farm board concentrates on farm activities and promoting economic health for the six tenants.

One owner, Colleen Hammer of Remember When Antiques, was delighted by Sagmeister’s hiring.

“We appreciate this news and all the board has done for us,” she said.

In fact, the tone of the meeting was in sharp contrast to one held July 3, where about 50 local residents criticized the running of the farm since Blankenship left.

Port manager James Patton said he was pleased to hear a new farm manager had been hired.

“We were anxious to see someone in there on a full-time basis; I’m relieved to hear the news,” he said.

Former director Blankenship has since been contracted by the Port of Coupeville to author their comprehensive plan.

Blankenship will report on the comprehensive plan and Commissioner Benye Weber will discuss the commission’s response to a letter from the Greenbank board on timing to resolve the lease agreement today when the port holds its regular July meeting. The meeting starts at 10:30 a.m. at the farm’s Jim Davis house.

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or e-mail jvanderford@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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