New Oak Harbor School District communications specialist hopeful Whidbey Island will be final stop for her and football coach husband

Kellie Tormey is eager to tackle a new challenge in a new setting as the communications coordinator for Oak Harbor schools. - Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times
Kellie Tormey is eager to tackle a new challenge in a new setting as the communications coordinator for Oak Harbor schools.
— image credit: Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times

As the wife of a major college football coach, Kellie Tormey has grown used to life on the go.

She’s learned not to get too attached to one particular community, or feel too snug in any one place.

But as Tormey starts a new chapter in her marketing and communications career on Whidbey Island, this time the feeling is very much different.

Tormey recently was hired as the new communications coordinator for the Oak Harbor School District, just in time for the start of a new school year. The first day of school in Oak Harbor is Thursday, Sept. 5.

Tormey envisions Whidbey Island as the final landing place for her and her husband Chris Tormey, a longtime University of Washington football assistant who is currently the defensive coordinator at Wyoming.

It might take a while before Chris Tormey puts away his whistle and catches up with his wife for full-time residency on Whidbey. But Kellie Tormey said she feels that will happen eventually.

“I think we believe this is it,” Kellie said. “We love the island setting, and the natural beauty of Whidbey Island is without peer. It’s just breathtaking. It has everything we like to do, everything Chris is interested in. Oak Harbor itself is such an asset to the island as well. It has the beauty of a small town, but it doesn’t feel like a small town.”

For the time being, Kellie Tormey will venture into her new career stop on her own, and she couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to represent Oak Harbor schools.

While her husband is a well-known football name among ardent Husky fans, Kellie is quite a star in her own right in her chosen career path.

She’s held communications positions with the University of Hawaii Cancer Center in Honolulu (director of communications and external affairs), Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center at the University of Washington (communications officer) and Nordstrom (corporate public relations director), among others.

Lance Gibbon, Oak Harbor’s new superintendent, was looking to fill the position left by Joe Hunt, who moved to Minnesota. He found Tormey’s credentials to be impeccable.

“We were thrilled to find somebody with such diverse experience and depth of experience in the communications field,” Gibbon said. “She has such strong connections with the Seattle media, which may give us some opportunities to get some more visibility for Oak Harbor and our region. At the same time, she has very much a community-oriented focus, having worked in communities. She’s a former executive director of United Way (of Whitman County) and so she knows what it means to be invested and a part of a close-knit community and the importance of service. We’re excited about that.

“I think we’re fortunate that someone with that kind of experience was hoping to move to the island. She’s excited to be a part of our district. I think she’s going to bring a lot of energy to where we’re headed.”

Kellie said she and her husband had been talking about settling down on Whidbey Island for about a year. It’s a place she came to frequently while growing up and continued to visit with her husband over the years. She has an aunt who lives in Coupeville.

The Oak Harbor schools job was the opportunity that made the move happen sooner than later.

Although they’ve maintained a residence in Seattle, uprooting is nothing new to the Tormeys.

During her husband’s 34-year coaching career, Kellie has followed him on most of his eight stops in five different states.

But the past two years, they’ve lived in different states while focusing on their own careers.

Chris Tormey, formerly the head coach at Idaho and Nevada and twice a Huskies assistant, is in second season at Wyoming.

“We have sort of a long-distance commuting relationship,” Kellie said. “He comes back to the Northwest when he can. Usually, I go down there during the holidays. We mutually decided we needed a home base together. That’s going to be, we think, on Whidbey Island. Hopefully, it’s the last stop.”

The Tormeys have two daughters; Leah, who’s working on her master’s degree in education at Gonzaga; and Emily, an accomplished rower who recently graduated from Yale.

They’re a family well-versed in college football vernacular and one that understands the nomadic lifestyle of the modern-day college football coach.

“It’s clearly in the blood and that’s why I think it’s great for him,” Kellie said. “I think he’d like to stay in college football a few more years.”

In the meantime, Kellie will be putting down roots and diving into something new and exciting for her. It will be her first position with a school district.

She figures she has a “lifetime of learning” to apply to the job. The idea of playing a role in helping children succeed and making a difference in a community is what appealed to her most about the opportunity.

As communications coordinator, she’ll spearhead the school district’s communications and public relations.

“It’s an opportunity to try to help make a difference in a community and the lives of students who are striving to achieve and learn,” Kellie said. “Really in terms of settings, a school district offers, I think, probably the best chance to make a contribution in a tangible way for the future.

“This has been a really good district for helping students succeed. As great as it’s been, it can be even better. This is a wonderful chance to play a small role in helping them do that.”


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