Our Town

#203 Richard Davies, Public Defender

(Airdate: June 28, 2020) Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Richard Davies, senior public defender for Jefferson County. Richard and his team represent anyone in Jefferson County who needs state-funded legal representation after being arrested. He estimates that’s about 90% of all legal cases here. We actually have witnessed a drop in the crime rate here. Changing drug laws have helped reduce the overall number of felony charges. The pandemic also helped reduce crime numbers. Fewer people have been out and about and the police have been reluctant to pull over cars for things like broken tail lights. Still, Richard believes our legal system needs a thorough overhaul. Society is in the midst of change. For example, attitudes toward addiction have shifted. We now have a Drug Court which aims to “give people a hand up rather than a boot in the back.”

#202 Amanda Milholland, Farmers Market Director

(Airdate: June 14, 2022) Maryanne McNellis interviews Amanda Milholland, director of both the Port Townsend and Chimacum Farmers Markets. Amanda’s a local girl with a passion for food. During her time with the Peace Corp in Uganda she learned the value of knowing just where her food was grown. In recent years, more and more people are wanting to know just how their meat, dairy, or produce is grown. The whole “farm to table” movement is based on that premise. Like all businesses, the farmers markets were impacted by the pandemic. But because they are considered “essential businesses” the time when they were actually shut down was fairly brief. Early on, traffic and revenue shrunk to about half of pre-pandemic levels. Food was still sold but popular events like cooking demonstrations and live music were cancelled for much of the first two years of the pandemic. But right now things are looking bright for the 2022 season. The number of vendors is back to pre-pandemic levels. Amanda is excited to report that music, cooking, and even story time for the kids are back this year. It’s the market’s 30th anniversary and everyone wants to celebrate this hometown treasure.

#201 John Clise, Renaissance Man

(Airdate: May 31, 2022) Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews John Clise, a man who embraced and enjoyed several different careers over his first 90 years of life. John grew up in Seattle, served as a translator in the Korean war and finished his undergraduate degree at Stanford. After returning to the Pacific Northwest, he spent some years in his family’s business. He was working out of an office at the Pike Place Market, which at that time was under threat of developers turning it into offices and condos. John was part of the group that successfully “saved” Pike Place by getting its historic designation. He went on to become Executive Director of Pike Place for nearly a decade. Looking for a new adventure, John decided that Port Townsend would be his next home base. He soon realized that he had to find a career on the Olympic Peninsula. He found out that the venerable Aldrich’s Market was teetering on the brink of insolvency. So he bought it and owned and operated Aldrich’s for years. During that time he also turned to local politics — serving on Port Townsend City Council and becoming Mayor in an era before the town had a City Manager. The job was much different than it is today. At some point John thought he might retire. He sold the store and completed his mayoral duties. But he’s not exactly one to sit back and take in the view. He was soon mentoring small businesses and became a versatile actor with Key City Players, playing everything from kings to monsters. He also volunteered and became a key part of the team at KPTZ-FM. What’s next?

Monika MickHager, PT City Council Member

(Airdate: May 17, 2022) Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Monica MickHager, a  first-term Port Townsend City Council member. Monica has been involved in city politics for years, serving over a decade on the Planning Commission, many years on Parks & Recreation and School District committees plus 19 years with the PT Film Festival. But running for elected office was a big step. She took office in January 2020, just before the pandemic shut everything down. Monica had campaigned aggressively on getting the town’s debt load under control and repairing our pothole-riddled streets. But with the city under strict emergency orders, there was little chance for major change. Still, Monica’s stint as a council member has been eye-opening. She understands more fully why it takes so very long for the city to change policies. That doesn’t mean she has given up on her goals. In addition to focusing on debt reduction and streets, she is also working on affordable housing, renters’ rights, and parking management. And then there’s the ever-growing deer herd in Port Townsend. Monica has meticulously studied every issue and is ready to suggest what she sees as better solutions. Not everyone agrees, of course.

#199 Rob Birman, Centrum Executive Director

(Airdate: May 5, 2022) Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Rob Birman, Executive Director of Centrum. Rob came to Centrum after 25 years managing symphony orchestras. It was flourishing under his direction. But like many other organizations, Centrum endured two years of being largely shuttered due to the pandemic. Now it looks like Port Townsend’s cultural jewel is poised to return with a full slate of conferences, seminars, classes and even concerts. Rob says it has been tough – revenue was down about 90% during the pandemic. But there were some valuable lessons learned. Centrum already had attendees from 17 countries and all 50 states. Under Rob’s direction, the team honed skills in online presentations, which will now become a permanent part of the Centrum experience.  He predicts a wider international and national presence. The ripple effect of in-person attendance is a real driver for the local economy. Big week-long sessions such as jazz or blues might attract over 700 people. Weekend concerts add more than 1,000 people. Let’s hope that the music will again fill the air at Fort Worden!

#198 Erin Reading, Port Townsend Psychedelic Society

(Airdate: April 19, 2022) Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Erin Reading, co-founder of the Port Townsend Psychedelic Society. She grew up in Washington state and has always been transfixed by our mountains. At the University of Washington she studied both philosophy & geology. It made sense to her – combining the theoretical and applied. She was on her way to a PhD when she had her first experience with psychedelics. It changed her life. Erin somehow fell in love with Chimacum and moved here. She found a community of like-minded people. She soon was the co-founder of the Port Townsend Psychedelic Society, which currently has over 600 subscribers to its newsletter. The group is working to decriminalize natural psychedelics such as mushrooms or peyote. The group ’s focus is on legalizing plants, not synthetic chemical compounds. It’s a nation-wide movement that has seen places such as Oakland CA, Ann Arbor MI, Washington DC and dozens of others move toward decriminalization. The Port Townsend City Council recently passed a resolution directing police and prosecutors to make psychedelics their lowest priority. According to Erin, that amounts to “de-facto decriminalization.”

#197 Becky Stephans

(Airdate: March 22, 2022) Becky Steffens, Physical Therapist. Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Becky Steffens, a Physical Therapist with Jefferson Healthcare. Becky grew up in rural Iowa in an agricultural town of about 100 people. But this farm girl wanted to get off the farm and travel. She was fascinated by the medical world. But after working part-time as a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) as a student, she realized nursing wasn’t for her. But there are other opportunities in the medical field – if you are willing to work hard to get there. You might not realize it, but physical therapy certification requires a doctorate these days. But Becky didn’t let that – and a mountain of student debt – hold her back. After graduation she first became a “traveling physical therapist” zigzagging across the country on assignments. That helped her see the country. Traveling physical therapists also make more money than full-time staff people. She really wanted out from under that debt load. Port Townsend was one of her stops but it really caught her attention. Now she has joined Jefferson Healthcare full time. Her start date at Jefferson Healthcare was supposedly March 2020. She had already moved here when the job was put on hold due to the pandemic. Single and new in town, she threw herself into working for the Food Bank. When the worst of the crisis eased she started with Jefferson Healthcare. She loves working one-on-one with patients on their road back to mobility and health.

#196 Artis the Spoonman, Musician

(Airdate: March 8, 2020) Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Artis the Spoonman, a talented and eccentric musician. After dropping out of school in the 10th grade, Artis spent a few years in the Navy. He says his two goals from childhood were being a musician and seeing the world. He figures he’s accomplished that. Artis has played with the likes of Frank Zappa and showcased his spoon-playing skills on the David Letterman show (among many TV appearances). Over the years he’s played gigs all over the world. He’s as comfortable busking on the street as he is playing with the Seattle philharmonic in a white silk tuxedo. Artis is proud of his “heritage in the hippie world” thanks to his free-spirited Mother. A Northwest native, Artis was a fixture at the Pike Place Market in Seattle for many years. But he ended up here in Port Townsend a few years ago. He loves it here but he’s worried about gentrification. After all, he’s not all that gentrified.

#195 Carlyn Stark, Sailor

(Reprise airdate: February 22, 2022) CARLYN STARK, ICON OF THE PT MARITIME INDUSTRY. In this reprise of an earlier episode, Our Town Host Maryanne McNellis interviews Carlyn Stark, who was something of a legend in the local maritime industry. Carlyn died recently after decades devoted to the sea and to teaching kids maritime skills. She was one of the early dreamers and donors who helped make the Northwest Maritime Center a reality. She ran Camp Four Winds Westward Ho on Orcas Island for many years. It’s a unique camp that somehow blends art and poetry with adventures on the sea. Fittingly, the kids attending the camp today sail every summer on a 161-foot yawl named “the Carlyn.” She grew up in great wealth as a daughter of the Kaiser family (Kaiser Permanente, Kaiser Steel, the Kaiser family Foundation, and other related companies). She was an adventurer at heart – always ready for the next chapter in an extraordinary life. Carlin leaves behind four children, multiple grandchildren and great-grandchildren and a great many friends and colleagues.

#194 Linda Rosenbury, PT Superintendent of Schools

(Airdate: February 8, 2022) Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Dr. Linda Rosenbury, PT’s new Superintendent of Schools. Dr. Rosenbury came to teaching from an art history background.  She soon found herself as a teacher and later a principal at some of the nation’s toughest schools in areas such as the Bronx and Brooklyn. At one point, her school had the distinction of being in the highest crime rate district in the nation. A full 100% of the kids in that school fell below the poverty line, thus qualifying for free or reduced-cost meals. Dr. Rosenbury soon realized that most schools faced common issues including a disciplinary system that simply removed kids on suspension and didn’t address the underlying problems. After earning a Doctorate at Harvard, she came to Port Townsend. Despite COVID-19 she has moved ahead with an ambitious agenda. For example, a rethinking of the disciplinary system means there’s now on-campus suspension where kids on both sides meet with counselors. There’s a new data management system. There are also efforts to make school a safer place for students of color. She’s a woman with drive & ambition and part of her mission is improving the PT school district.

#193 David Faber, PT’s New Mayor

(Airdate: January 25, 2022) Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews David Faber, Port Townsend’s new mayor. David is partner in the uptown law firm Faber & Feinson. His family moved to Port Townsend when he was eight years old so he has first-hand knowledge of the PT school system as well as most local issues. David was a council member and Deputy Mayor before assuming the largely ceremonial post as Mayor. PT also has a City Manager, John Mauro, as well as a mayor and a seven-person city council. The council hires the city manager and approves his major decisions. David says that affordable housing is one key issue facing our community. He has also been listening to citizen concerns about the state of our roads, which have had little maintenance for years. But adequate repair of our streets is an expensive proposition. Major arteries such as Water Street or Discovery Road are candidates for either federal or state grants. But neighborhood streets are not eligible for that sort of funding. Where are we going to get the money to fix our streets? It’s not a simple matter.

#192 Colin Foden, KPTZ founder & former Board Chair

(Airdate: January 11, 2022) COLIN FODEN: MAKING RADIO DREAMS REALITY. Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Colin Foden, KPTZ co-founder and long-time President & Chairman. Colin joined IBM as a young man. Those tech skills turned out to be easily transferable when he left Northern England and headed for New Zealand. Next it was on to California where he worked for financial giant Pacific Life. He hadn’t been on a college track back in England. But Pacific Life financed his MBA at Pepperdine University. The plot digressed when he and his partner had a baby girl. Soon they were in the proverbial VW van headed up to the Pacific Northwest. He had friends in Port Townsend and soon was part of the community here, serving as the key financial guy at Centrum for several years. But before long he was the single parent of two toddlers. That role clashed with full-time employment so he left Centrum to become a consultant. A chance meeting with a friend at Swains (an institution which folded a few years back) resulted in him joining a small band of idealists devoted to starting a community radio station. The rest is history, as they say. They started the ball rolling in 2007 and by 2011 our own community radio station – KPTZ, 91.9 FM – was up and running. Colin was at the helm as President & Chairman of the Board during KPTZ’s first decade. It hasn’t always been easy.

#192 Steve King, PT Public Works Director

(Airdate: December 14, 2021) Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Steve King, PT’s Public Work Director. Steve literally started his job on pandemic lockdown day – March 20, 2020. The office was pretty empty and the town was a ghost town. But, as an essential worker, Steve jumped right in. He has a long background in government work. Most of his career, he worked for the city of Wenatchee. He rose through the ranks there for 18 years. But then he got an itch. He took off some banked vacation time and set out to walk the world-famous Camino de Santiago – a 500 mile trek across the Pyrenees through France and Spain. When he returned he decided he needed a career change. Port Townsend seemed like the perfect fit. Starting during the pandemic hasn’t been easy. Now he’s involved in almost every infrastructure project around town – including the new water contract with the mill, upgrading our roads, and overseeing several new housing projects. Did you know there’s a 100-unit project called Madrona Ridge that’s coming down the pipeline? That’s the tip of the iceberg.

#190 Haydn Starbuck: An Artist Struggling Post-Pandemic

(Airdate: November 30, 2021) Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Haden Starbuck, a local artist specializing in jewelry and fiber art through Mystic Beach Studio. The pandemic wiped out her business. Like most of our creative class, Haden is self-employed. As such, she didn’t even qualify for unemployment when the pandemic first hit. The rules changed and self-employed people ultimately did qualify for government assistance. But those programs have now largely ended. After spending through her savings for the past 18 months, Haden’s looking at how she can continue as an artist. She’s launched a new venture called “creatrix compass.” ([email protected]) She’s producing podcasts featuring creative people and hopes to both consult and run classes on creativity. So far there’s no revenue stream, but Haden’s optimistic. She’s also returning to various shows and venues to directly sell her work. But some shows require an $800 or $1,000 upfront fee for the booth and perhaps a cut of sales. It’s a stiff price for anyone post pandemic. But Haden’s sure she can and will make it!

#188 Gina Landon: A New Restaurant Joins the Scene

(Airdate: November 2, 2021) Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Gina Landon, the owner of the Farm & Sea Grill in Port Hadlock. Gina signed the lease on her restaurant-to-be in February 2020 – not realizing that her timing was disastrous. She vowed that COVID-19 was not going to count her out even before she started. The restaurant opened in July 2020. Her not-so-secret weapon was hiring staff who helped create the remarkable community feel of the late, lamented Don’s Pharmacy Lunch Counter. Their friendly chatter is now helping create a warm glow at the Farm & Sea. Summer business was great but now we are in the dark days of winter. Gina’s facing the same problems as all restaurateurs — including staff shortages and supply chain woes. As a new restaurant, every little thing matters. But if pickles are hard to find, she will find them somewhere. She’s determined to succeed!

#187 Sam Rezendes, Uptown Cutlery

(Airdate: October 19, 2021) SAM REZENDES: ONE SHARP YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR. Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Sam Rezendes, the owner of Uptown Cutlery, a knife sharpening business that’s upstairs at Aldrich’s uptown. When he was just a kid, Sam’s  parents moved to Port Townsend to open Crossroads Music. Like many small-town kids, Sam dreamed of making it big in the big city. After high school, he went off to chase his dreams – mainly in San Francisco. But the birth of a son and the global pandemic made Sam & his partner reexamine priorities. They moved to Port Townsend and Sam opened his tiny knife sharpening business. It’s a rarity – a business segment that got a big boost from the pandemic. People who never before had the time or interest to become a great cook were suddenly blossoming into impressive chefs. Think about it: your old knives need sharpening and what could make a better gift to your favorite nouveau chef than finely honed new knives?

#189 Sam Rezendes

(Airdate: October 19, 2021) ONE SHARP YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR. Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Sam Rezendes, the owner of Uptown Cutlery, a knife sharpening business that’s upstairs at Aldrich’s. When he was just a kid, Sam’s parents moved to Port Townsend to open Crossroads Music. Like many small-town kids, Sam dreamed of making it big in the big city. After high school, he went off to chase his dreams – mainly in San Francisco. But the birth of a son and the global pandemic made Sam and his partner reexamine priorities. They moved to Port Townsend and Sam opened his tiny knife sharpening business. It’s a rarity – a business segment that got a big boost from the pandemic. People who never before had the time or interest to become a great cook were suddenly blossoming into impressive chefs. Think about it: your old knives need sharpening and what could make a better gift to your favorite nouveau chef than finely honed new knives?

#186 Rocky Friedman: The Dream Behind the Rose Theatre

(Airdate: October 5, 2021) Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Rocky Friedman, the owner of the Rose Theatre in Port Townsend. Rocky fell in love with movies at a young age. After graduating from USC’s famed Film School, he decided that his future was not as a star but as a great screenwriter. Rocky and his wife ultimately moved to Port Townsend – a great place to write. But Rocky soon realized that the town was ripe for a special kind of movie theater. He spent seven long years researching and scheming. Oddly enough, he never even realized that the glory of the original 1907 Rose Theatre was lurking behind cheap remodels. The old tin ceiling and murals were carefully restored before opening in 1992. The Rosebud followed in 1995 and the adult venue Starlight Room opened in 2013. Then came the pandemic and Rocky – like all business owners – faced the trauma of shutdown. A “go-fund-me” campaign helped him hold on through the 499 days of closure. But the Rose is now back and Rocky is loving returning with the movies he loves. (Did you know he personally picks which movies run at the Rose?)

#185 Derrell Tidwell: Hospice Foundation President

(Airdate: September 21, 2021) Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Derrell Tidwell, president of the Jefferson County Healthcare Hospice Foundation. With a basic philosophy that ‘no one dies alone,’ Hospice is a small but important part of Jefferson Healthcare’s basket of services. Hospice aims to provide dignity and comfort during the final days. It can include everything from pain medication to services such as bathing, massages, or just having someone read to you. The Hospice Foundation is a non-profit that essentially raises funds for the Hospice program. Derrell and his colleagues on the Board serve a vital role ensuring there’s enough money for these vital services. The COVID-19 crisis meant Hospice workers couldn’t go into the homes of patients for quite a while. But, as Derrell notes, they are now back in action.

#184 Scott Walker: Non-Motorized Transportation Guru

(Airdate: September 7, 2021) Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Scott Walker, a passionate advocate for non-motorized transportation. Scott’s day job is as an electrical contractor. He’s owned and run Current Electric since the early 1990s. But for the past 35 years most of his energy has been devoted to trying to wean Jefferson County from the car. Back in the 1980s he was part of the group that instigated our system of trails. Over the years he’s been on every committee and advisory board that could possibly influence transit. According to Scott, 66% of the greenhouse gas in Port Townsend comes from auto emissions. That’s deplorable in his book! He dreams of a “walkable, bike-able town” and has mapped out how to achieve it.

#183 Chris Dahl: Tending Trees, Both Old and Young

(Airdate: August 24, 2021) Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews CHRIS DAHLL, owner of Town & County Tree Experts. Chris grew up on the Olympic Peninsula. He was one of those kids who didn’t exactly have a plan for what he was going to be when he “grew up.” At first he thought he’d be a fireman. But when he was in high school he got a part-time job at Town & Country Tree. He was just a grunt laborer at first. But he found he loved working outside, dealing with nature. He learned on the job until there wasn’t a tree species around that could stump him. In time he was able to purchase the 30-year-old local company. Now Chris has his brother Matt onboard as part of the team. Interestingly, this is one company that positively thrived during the pandemic.

#182 John Barlow: A Rocky Road to the Film Biz

(Airdate: August 10, 2021) Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews John Barlow, a Port Townsend guy who went to L.A. to follow his dream of becoming a big success in the film industry. After more than a decade of dead-end jobs in L.A., he found himself battling addiction. He struggled through “about 50” attempts at sobriety (cold turkey, therapy, rehab). Nothing seemed to work. But John relocated to a farm in North Carolina where friendship, nature, and a rare breed of dogs called Bell Griffin helped get him clean. Next came a move to Malaysia – a move that included flying 16 dogs to Southeast Asia. Unfortunately, that flight happened in January 2020. The country soon went into lockdown and Malaysia ultimately decided to cancel most visas. John was on a plane back to the USA and ended up at his Mother’s place in Port Townsend. Now he’s more determined than ever to make it in the film business. The question is — how?

#181 Jan Pierson: Window Man & Dead Fanatic

(Airdate: July 27, 2021) Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Jan Pierson, owner of Nor’West Custodial. He’s commonly called “Jan the window man.” He’s spent several decades building up a custodial business that services hundreds of businesses in Jefferson County. There are also several hundred residential clients who rely on his teams for cleaning gutters, mold, and windows. But then there’s the other Jan – the one who left Minneapolis and ended up as part of the Haight Ashbury scene in the late 1960s & early 1970s. He became obsessed with the Grateful Dead and literally followed the band around the country for more than 20 years. Somehow he made his way to Port Townsend with half a tank of gas and 22 cents in his pocket. It’s quite a tale.

#180 Marc Hilt: Riding the Mobile Bike Biz

(Airdate: July 13, 2021) Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Marc Hilt, owner of Shining Star Cycles, a mobile bike repair business. Marc’s passion is bikes, particularly racing bikes. He raced for years, setting some national records. But winning races is pretty much a youngster’s game, so Marc played it forward. His passion became his career. He had a bike shop but figured out a fairly unique niche. Mobile bike service is a concept that’s pretty big in Europe but relatively new in the USA. Sparsely populated Jefferson County seemed like a good place to test the concept. So if you need your bike serviced or repaired Marc will come to you in his fully loaded (with bike parts) van. He also positions that van near the Olympic Discovery Trail so locals and tourists can have their bikes serviced before heading out on that spectacular ride. After all, there are no bike shops west of Port Angeles. We all know that good jobs are fairly scarce around here. But Marc’s a home town boy who has managed to create a business he loves.

#179 Charles Garland: Verizon’s Calling Card

(Airdate: June 29, 2021) Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Charles Garland, manager of the Verizon store in Port Townsend. Charles was a restless kid with no particular career in mind. So he joined the Marines right out of high school thinking that it would broaden his horizons and perhaps see the world. But he was assigned to Bangor, right here in the Pacific Northwest. On his first off-duty weekend he took the ferry to Canada with a group of guys. There was a girl on board. She’s now his ex-wife. Even though the marriage broke up, Charles is firmly rooted in the Pacific Northwest. He’s worked at a variety of jobs over the years. But he sees sales as his calling. He’s been with Verizon for a relatively short period of time. That story also involves a girl – she’s now his fiancé and lives in Port Townsend.

#178 Ian Plagmann: Zero Emissions Gardening

(Airdate: June 15, 2021) Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Ian Plagmann, founder of Greener Groundskeeping, an innovative gardening company. Ian uses a bike to carry all of his equipment from site to site. His haul includes lawnmower, leaf blower, edger and any number of all-electric gardening tools. His bike is indeed a sight to behold. It started out as a three-person tandem bike. But it has been modified carefully, balancing multiple engine weights to keep the bike’s delicate balance. The frame is the size of a mid-sized sedan. The goal of Greener Groundskeeping is simple: a zero emission gardening company. It’s an ambitious goal, but one he sees as a crucial component of climate reform.