Our Town

Melanie Bakin: Finishing High School in the COVID Era

(Airdate: June 1, 2021) Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Melanie Bakin, a graduating senior at Port Townsend High School. High school was going smoothly for Melanie – she was even going to be dancing in the student production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” But the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled that production. In fact, it cancelled all in-person classes, sports and other student activities for the better part of the academic year. But the high school is now inching toward a complete reopening. The junior/senior prom was a smash hit, even though it was held outside on the tennis courts with various social distancing protocols in place. The class of 2020 wasn’t so lucky. Now Melanie and her classmates are excited about getting on with their lives and are pondering that age-old question: “what next?”

#176 Best of Our Town

(Airdate: May 18, 2021) KPTZ 10TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL. In tribute to long-time producer/engineer John MacPherson, Maryanne McNellis and Larry Stein have put together “Best of” clips of various episodes of Our Town, which has aired for over 8 years on KPTZ.

#175 Katy Buckham: Secret Garden Nursery

(April 20, 2021) LOCAL GIRL AMID THE ROSES & DEER. Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Katy Buckham, manager of Secret Gardens Nursery in Port Townsend. Katy’s a third generation Port Townsend girl. She put in a brief stint in Seattle, getting the big city itch out of her system. But she returned to the gentle pace of Jefferson County. She was a cook and barista at many local hot spots, including the late lamented Sweet Laurette’s (where she met her husband). But in the end her passion for the earth won. She found her niche at Secret Gardens, caring for living plants and administering advice to local gardeners. The pandemic created a lot of novice gardeners. But Katy says the number one question from both novice and veteran gardeners is the same: what can I do about the deer eating my garden?

#174 Summer Races Are On

(Airdate: April 6, 2021) DANIEL EVANS: BOSS SAYS SUMMER RACES ARE ON! Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Daniel Evans, Race Boss for the Northwest Maritime Center. It looks like our beloved R2AK (Race to Alaska) is cancelled again due to the pandemic. But here’s the good news: two other summer races look like they are happening! The Seventy/48, the human-powered race between Tacoma and Port Townsend, will start on June 4. That’s 70 miles in 48 hours. And there’s a new race too. The Washington/360 will cover 360 miles of all Washington state waters in an engine-less race. Right now its unclear how much on-shore partying will happen around the races. But the Maritime Center has an elaborate online system where you can track the boats (and Stand-up Paddle boards) in real time, 24/7.

#173 Sandra Gessner

(Airdate: March 23, 2021) CONSIDER THE KIDS. Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Sandra Gessner-Crabtree who is steering the Port Townsend School District through the treacherous pandemic. As Superintendent, Sandy has walked a tightrope — listening to the pleas from parents and students while simultaneously trying to follow state and CDC guidelines. The stress has been tremendous. It remains to be seen whether a year of “distanced” learning has hurt our kids. Some seem to be sailing through it, while others are floundering. At this point in time we are poised to open more doors. Sports are beginning with condensed seasons. Teachers are being vaccinated. What does the 2021-2022 academic year look like?

#172 Lee McKinstry

(Airdate: March 8, 2021) FUNERALS IN THE TIME OF COVID. Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Lee McKinstry who has joined owner Real Robles at the Kosec Funeral Home in Port Townsend. McKinstry thought she might become a marine biologist. But after a stint in the Peace Corps she realized she really wanted to help people. She was fascinated by cultural rituals around death. It’s not a career for everyone, but she found her niche helping families through the grieving process. Today there is a renewed interest in the old-fashioned concept of “preplanning” your own funeral or cremation. After decisions are made, Kosec opens a trust account. The fact that it’s paid for relieves some of the strain on survivors. Kosec can arrange traditional burials with church or graveside services, working with religious leaders of all types. Cremation is also extremely popular in the Pacific Northwest. Given our maritime heritage, there’s a lot of interest in scattering ashes at sea. Among the many options are biodegradable containers, designed to do little or no harm to the environment.

#171 Hans Fredrickson

(First airdate: February 23, 2021) HANS FREDERICKSON: REDUCING CARBON FOOTPRINTS. Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Hans Fredrickson, owner of Frederickson Electric. After taking over the business from his father, Hans saw new opportunities for the company. Frederickson still does a healthy business with new construction, repairs, and remodels. But recent years have seen tremendous growth in installing solar arrays, new heat pumps, and charging stations for electric cars. Despite our gloomy winters, our long sunny summer days make solar power economically attractive to homeowners and developers. Heat pumps can also drastically cut power consumption. Stanford-educated Hans is an ardent environmentalist. He wants to help his customers reduce their carbon footprints to keep the Pacific Northwest as pristine as possible.

#170 Carolyn Salmon

(First airdate: February 9, 2021) CAROLYN SALMON: A VISION FOR SENIORS TO SHARE. Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Carolyn Salmon, president of the owners association at Quimper Village. This senior co-housing development speaks to the emerging consensus among many seniors that assisted living isn’t for them. But they realize they might also need some assistance. It’s a network of friends purchasing townhouses in a new development. They intend to take care of each other as much as they can. Currently, communal dinners and the like are on hold due to COVID-19. So far the COVID-free group has kept to outdoor activities. But they are anxious to return to group events. Quimper Village is perhaps an idealized view of small town interconnectedness. But the group seems determined to make it work.

#169 Sara Penhallegon

(First airdate: January 26, 2021) SARA PENHALLEGON: ANIMAL RESCUE ANGEL. Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Sara Penhallegon, founder & director of Center Valley Animal Rescue. Sara’s passion for saving animals began early: she became a vegetarian at the age of nine. Today the non-profit organization sits on about 30 acres of sprawling hills in center valley. It houses kittens & puppies, cats & dogs, rabbits & gerbils. All sorts of livestock live in one of several barns. A wildlife center houses eagles, cougars, coyotes, whatever. When a herd of starving buffalo was seized by the state, they became residents of Center Valley. Most animals are either released back into the wild or adopted. But there are exceptions. A baby bison was born onsite to a starving mother who couldn’t care for him. Sara & her team stepped in to raise him. Now he’s a permanent resident…a rather large & clumsy “pet.” Then there was the cougar who checked herself into one of the pens one night. There’s always excitement at Center Valley Animal Rescue.

#168 Cherish Cronmiller

(First airdate: January 12, 2021) CHERISH CRONMILLER: LEADING THE CHARGE FOR OLYCAP. Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Cherish Cronmiller, Executive Director of OlyCAP, the Olympic Peninsula’s umbrella community action organization. Homeless shelters, food banks, energy assistance programs, housing programs, Head Start, Meals on Wheels – these are just some of the programs run by OlyCAP. Soaring unemployment rates and rising forclosures on businesses and homes have put Jefferson County in a precarious situation. Our food banks illustrate the situation. The need is desperate. There are 40-50% more families here now relying on food banks. Schools were helping to feed hungry kids. But the schools are closed. Community action groups are trying to fill the gap. Cronmiller is in the thick of the battle to keep families afloat.

#167 Lance Bailey

(First airdate: December 29, 2020) PLANNING PT’S PRESENT & FUTURE. Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Lance Bailey, the Development Services Director for the city of Port Townsend. His department issues permits for all projects – large and small. Remodeling your kitchen? Building a large apartment building? Talk to Lance and his team. Contrary to popular wisdom, there are at least two apartment buildings about to be green-lighted. Housing accessibility is a huge problem around here. The COVID-19 crisis has heightened the problem – house prices are skyrocketing. People from the big cities and even “climate refugees” (people fleeing the massive wildfires) are desperate to move to small picture-perfect places like this. But we have to get broadband to the end of the road. Planning our future is almost impossible.

#166 – Dr. Molly Parker

(First airdate: December 15, 2020) DR. MOLLY PARKER: FAMILY CAREGIVER. Our Town Host Maryanne McNellis interviews Dr. Molly Parker, family medicine specialist at Jefferson Healthcare. After a childhood on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, Dr. Parker decided that she wanted her family to experience that same community closeness. Besides, she loves the variety of family medicine. She can be “catching babies” one day and diagnosing a nasty rash (or something much worse) the next. Of course, there’s also the pandemic to contend with! Dr. Parker talks about COVID-19 planning from behind the front lines. She’s also involved in a variety of medical initiatives. She helps train nurses to gather forensic evidence in sexual assault cases. As Director of Population Medicine, she’s attempting to change the reality that right now Jefferson County is a child care “desert.”

#165 – Chris James

(First airdate: December 1, 2020) CHRIS JAMES: AN ADOPTION STORY. Our Town Host Maryanne McNellis interviews Chris James, Alaskan adventurer & contractor. Chris was born in England and moved to the USA with his family as a child. He vaguely knew that he was adopted but didn’t much care. He was a restless youth who dropped out of high school, driving to Alaska mid-winter with no clear plans – and no money. He hustled his way through jobs, starting in a crab cannery and eventually on board almost any sort of vessel in the Alaskan fishing fleet. When his first child was born he began to think about a more stable existence. Eventually, he founded a construction company in Port Angeles. The impending birth of his first grandchild prompted him to seek out his biological mother. To his profound shock, he found her. Although his Irish mother was dead he suddenly had five Irish siblings, aunts, uncles and a huge number of cousins. They have embraced him into a family he never knew or even dreamed of!

#164 – Sebastian Eggert

(Airdate: November 3, 2020) SEBASTIAN EGGERT:  HISTORY AND WEDDING CAKES. Our Town Host Maryanne McNellis interviews Sebastian Eggert, the founder of Rain Shadow Wood Works. Sebastian has a fascinating niche as a restorer of historic buildings. He has been involved in almost every restoration around town — including the Courthouse, Saint Paul’s Church, Fort Worden, and even a 51foot wooden sailboat. When he first sets foot into a crumbling historic building, Sebastian sees it as a wedding cake with the entire inside hollowed out. The mere outlines of the elaborate frosting remain. His job is to re-create the interior. He sets about preserving what he can and restoring things to their original splendor. Often he uses old labor-intensive methods of construction. He will use modern technology if absolutely necessary. But he prefers a seamless transformation, where you can’t tell the old from the new.

#163 – Robert Ambrose: Leading KPTZ To The Next Level

(Airdate: 10/20/2020) Our Town Host Maryanne McNellis interviews Robert Ambrose, the chairman of the board of KPTZ. Robert has an adventurous past including stints in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, England and the San Francisco Bay area before settling in Alaska. He and wife, Jessica, decided that they did not want to raise their sons in an urban center. They found life quite different in rural Alaska. It suited them well. He was a stay-at-home dad for a while and Jessica was in public health. But the call of the local community station soon had Robert more than just a little involved. All was good. But years later Jessica died in a tragic accident. Robert was undone and after some travel and life reassessment he decided to move. He was lucky to find Port Townsend. His passion for community radio is so deep that he pitched a show to Larry Stein, KPTZ’s program director, even before he got to town. Soon he was on the board and quickly after that became chairman. So now he’s in charge of all of KPTZ’s efforts. He’s leading the team through some tough times. The station is growing and adapting to the challenges of the Covid pandemic.. It also needs funds to help renovate quarters at Fort Worden. The show is scheduled to air on Tuesday, Oct. 20 and Sunday, Oct 25.  

#162 Mike Howell: Sandwich Shop in Purgatory

(Airdate: 10/6/2020) Our Town Host Maryanne McNellis interviews Mike Howell, owner of Howell’s Sandwich Shop in downtown Port Townsend. Mike opened his eatery only two years ago. Business took off rapidly – his first two years were stellar. Sure, a major winter storm blew out his windows the first year. But that was nothing compared to coping with Covid. With limited seating and hours he’s struggling to stay afloat. Howell’s only has about 1,000 square feet. Mike’s fortunate that he has a deck with a dynamite view. But now that winter is coming on, that asset might not help that much. His first two years were heaven and now he’s facing hell. He calls it “purgatory” and hopes to climb out soon. Here’s another small home town businessman that we all need to help support. The show is scheduled to air on Tuesday, October 6, and Sunday, October 11.

#161 Owner of Wynwoods Gallery and Bead Studio

(Airdate: 9/22/2020) LOIS VENARCHICK: ARTISTIC DREAMS WOBBLING. Our Town Host Maryanne McNellis interviews Lois Venarchick, owner of the Wynwoods Gallery and Bead Studio on Water Street. Lois is a jeweler and an artist. She has also owned her own shop since the early 1980s. Business has had its ups and downs over the years. But nothing like this. The gallery and shop were closed from early March until June. That meant zero revenue. But she still had bills to pay, like everyone else. She’s open now. But, of course, on only 30% of her previous hours with restricted numbers of customers allowed in at any one time.. Will her business survive? She sure hopes so and she’s a fighter. We are all rooting for her and for all of the other small businesses in Port Townsend. They are the life blood of this town. The show is scheduled to run on Tuesday, September 22, and Sunday, September 27.

#160 Bakin & Johnson, PTHS Class of 2021

(Airdate: September 8, 2020) HOME ALONE FOR PTHS CLASS OF 2021. Our Town Host Maryanne McNellis interviews Melanie Bakin & Soso (Sorina) Johnston, members of the Port Townsend class of 2021. This year will be an unusual, if not surreal, experience. Due to the coronavirus, there will be no in-classroom learning first semester. Melanie will be returning full-time to PTHS. She loves the teachers and she loves the school. Upon reflection, Soso is taking a different path. Even though she was student body president during her junior year and was elected senior class president this year, she’s decided not to return full-time. She is going to be taking advantage of Running Start, which is a joint program between Peninsula College and the high school. Both students have their reasons. It is a daunting prospect to be learning entirely at a distance. High school will definitely not be as much fun! It will take real grit to buckle down in front of your computer day after day.

#159 Isabel Hammet, PTHS H.S. grad

(Airdate: August 25, 2020) UNIVERSITY BOUND IN THE COVID ERA. Our Town Host Maryanne McNellis interviews Izzy (Isabel) Hammett, a member of the Port Townsend High School Class of 2020. It was a weird senior year. Izzy is dyslectic and says online learning was quite difficult. But she was determined to succeed. She went for every extra credit that she could. It paid off – she raised her “Bs” to “As” and won the prestigious Andy Palmer Scholarship. Izzy was accepted into her dream college, PLU (Pacific Lutheran University). The PTHS class of 2020 had no prom. And avid athlete Izzy also saw team sports cancelled. Graduation at the Drive-In was – well – unique experience. This fall PLU has announced that it’s online learning. Like most entering freshmen, Izzy would love to have the full college experience, including the dorm room. But she wants to go into psychology and is willing to do whatever it takes to get there.

#158 Kris Nelson, Sirens & Alchemy Owner

(Airdate: August 11, 2020) Our Town Host Maryanne McNellis interviews Kris Nelson, owner of four Port Townsend restaurants and bars (Sirens, Alchemy, The Old Whiskey Mill and The Inbetween). Like virtually all business owners, Kris has suffered significant losses through the great COVID-19 shutdown of 2020. She says she loses money every day she stays open throughout the spring and summer. Take out and limited seating does not really translate into profits in the restaurant business. But Kris is a fighter and hopes to weather the COVID storm and emerge with her business intact. Here’s her strategy: “I want to focus on how to succeed, not whether we will succeed.”

#157 Jake Soule, Admiralty Distillers/Sanitizer Supplier

(Airdate: July 28, 2020) FROM DISTILLED SPIRITS TO SANITIZER. Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Jake Soule, owner of Admiralty Distillers. Jake grew up in Calgary, Canada, which is better known for cowboys than sailors. But he fell in love with sailing and ended up on the crew of a tall ship. To help pay the bills he became a skilled carpenter and all-round construction guy. That led to Port Townsend’s own Wooden Boat School. Jake also loves spirits and he soon realized that the town lacked its own craft distillery. After considerable study and a pass through the regulatory maze, he opened Admiralty Distillers. But that business, like every business around, was slammed by the COVID virus. However, Jake realized he could help the community. He turned his still into a hand sanitizer production facility. Admiralty’s sanitizer is playing a crucial role in community safety.

#156 Jose Borrayo, Gardening in Pandemic

(Airdate: July 14, 2020) GARDENING THROUGH THE PANDEMIC. Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Jose Borrayo, owner of the Port Townsend Garden Center. Jose has never been afraid of getting his hands dirty. He literally worked his way up from the bottom: maintenance man, cashier, manager and ultimately owner of the garden center. This determined young entrepreneur decided to create a bright and secure future for his family – wife Jillian and three small children. Along the way he’s mastered the names and properties of thousands of plants, fertilizers and insect sprays. If you have a gardening question, Jose’s your man. Gardening has become even more of a passion during the COVID lockdown. Novice gardeners are joining the ranks of our passionate gardeners. Jose and his team are helping with this green revolution.

#155 Kelly Barlow, No Hands on in the Time of COVID

(Airdate: June 30, 2020) NO HANDS ON IN THE TIME OF COVID. Our Town Host Maryanne McNellis interviews massage therapist, Kelly Barlow, owner of one of the many local businesses that was forced to shut down during the COVID-19 crisis. Kelly had zero income for almost three months. She spent down her savings and tried (mostly without success) to find her way through the thicket of regulations to get federal or state aid. She’s now back with a very limited and thoroughly sanitized operation. By definition, massage is a hands-on profession. So Kelly’s also begun studying to expand her skill set. She was once in the catering business. Now she’s taking courses in nutrition, planning perhaps for a career expansion into nutritional consulting.

#154 Mike Glenn, Jefferson Healthcare’s Future

(First airdate: March 24, 2020) JEFFERSON HEALTHCARE’S FUTURE. Our Town Host Maryanne McNellis interviews Mike Glenn, CEO of Jefferson Healthcare, Port Townsend’s dynamic health hub. We may be a small rural community, but healthcare standards in Jefferson County are quite high. Over the past decade Jefferson Healthcare has added (or expanded) departments in oncology, cardiology, orthopedics surgery, dermatology and several other specialties. A dental clinic opened last June, filling a huge need in the area. By closely monitoring shifting demographics Glenn & his team read the pulse of community needs. One success story is the rapidly expanding “Wellness Center” which offers innovative programs such as “Dancing with Parkinson’s.”

#153 Wes Eng, Marching to a Different Drummer

(First airdate: March 10, 2020) MARCHING TO A DIFFERENT DRUMMER. Our Town Host Maryanne McNellis interviews Wes Eng, long-time Port Townsend entrepreneur and free spirit. Wes dropped out of college to join VISTA (Volunteers to Service in America) and ended up in a primitive, remote village in Alaska. When he returned a year later, his campus in Pullman was a full-throttle hippie outpost. He decided that he could and would live outside the system – no white picket fence, no climbing the corporate ladder. He’s stayed true to that vision for about 50 years. He works for as brief a period as possible, then uses those funds to travel or just live life on his own terms. Over the years he’s had a staggering assortment of jobs – school janitor, landscaper, bookstore clerk, waiter, potter, even driving wheat trucks in Eastern Washington.

#152 Holly Mayshark, Quimper Merchantile

(First airdate: February 25, 2020) THE MERC’S SECRET WEAPON. Our Town host Maryanne McNellis interviews Holly Mayshark, general manager of Quimper Mercantile. Most people who shop at Quimper Mercantile don’t realize that it’s a rather unique institution – a community-owned store. The “Merc,” as it’s affectionately called, has about 900 shareholders. Shares were sold at $100 a piece before opening in 2012. If the store makes a profit, it goes to employee profit sharing or store upgrades. Holly personally does most of the buying. The merchandise reflects her unique sense of beauty and style, including a lot of items from local artists & artisans. The Merc is a true reflection of Port Townsend’s eclectic spirit.