Kristen Griffin said she is “uniquely suited” to appreciate island living and the historic significance of Whidbey Island.
Griffin began her position as the new manager of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve last week.
The Trust Board searched for months for the right candidate.
Griffin, who grew up on Mercer Island, said that island living has been a theme of her life.
“I just can’t believe how fortunate I am,” Griffin said. “I feel so lucky to be here. This is one of the most beautiful and significant locations in Washington State.”
Until recently, Griffin was the Spokane City/County historic preservation officer, a position she held since 2008. Prior to that, she worked for a variety of National Park Service units in Alaska and lived on Baranof Island. She was the historian at Sitka National Park as well as the historian and archeologist for Denali National Park in Alaska.
She is currently a member of the board of directors for the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.
“She’s got 25 years of historic preservation and cultural resource experience,” said Lisbeth Cort, who served as the interim manager for the reserve until last week.
Griffin said the position for the reserve, and its emphasis on partnerships with the community, appealed to her philosophy for preservation.
Griffin said she defines historic preservation quite broadly, not just focusing on architecture, but also the way of life, landscape and how people have interacted with the land. And she said she believes the structures put in place by the federal and state agencies work well when used correctly.
“I believe the processes result in good decision-making,” Griffin said.
Griffin said she was aware of the controversy surrounding Outlying Field Coupeville noise and the cement blocks placed around the perimeter of the practice field when she applied for the position.
The Navy’s airfield borders the reserve, and some have been critical of the cement blocks, arguing they detract from the natural beauty of the area.
The state’s Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation issued a “no adverse effect” determination in September. However, the office retracted its statement last month “due to new information about the project.”
The Navy must now come up with an alternative plan and involve all vested parties, such as local tribes, governments and agencies, including Ebey’s Reserve.
Griffin’s husband served with the Army in Vietnam and her father was a marine. Griffin said she will approach the issue fairly and work toward a solution.
“I am especially experienced in this type of communication and dialogue,” Griffin said. “I am entering this position at a critical part of this discussion when a new kind of relationship is being built between the board and the Navy.”
Griffin said she will work with rural and urban property owners, neighborhood associations and government officials as part of her new position. Griffin said she is looking forward to working with the island’s many organizations dedicated to historic preservation.
“This reserve is one of the best examples I’ve ever seen of how partnerships can create a great preservation climate,” Griffin said.
“I have a lot of listening and learning to do.”
Griffin replaces Mark Preiss, who resigned in the summer of 2013 to accept a position at the Glacier Park Conservancy in Montana.