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City attorney milks sheep in spare time

Oak Harbor’s new city attorney brings a broad perspective, a passion for local government and one of the more unique avocations in Skagit County.

The City Council approved a contract for Margery Hite in February. The 56-year-old Bow resident was at the tail-end of her six-year term as the attorney for the western region’s Growth Management Hearings Board when she accepted the Oak Harbor position. Gov. Gary Locke appointed Hite to the position in 2002.

Prior to working for the board, which brought her to Whidbey Island on more than one occasion, she took her skills across the Atlantic to assist Serbians as they fortified their legal system.

“It was very interesting,” Hite said, adding that a disparity between her surplus of time and the Serbs’ lack of disposable free time was at times frustrating. Her position was part of the American Bar Association’s Central and Eastern European Law Initiative, implemented after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The attorney also worked a combined five years in King County’s criminal and fraud divisions, as well as a decade closer to home in Snohomish County’s civil division.

Grateful for the experience granted by her hearings board tenure, Hite found herself ready for a change. And Oak Harbor’s advertisement for a new city attorney fell in her cross hairs.

“I wanted to get back to working in local government,” she said. “So I applied.”

Hite was selected by a committee made up of three City Council members, city department heads, local attorney Chris Skinner, former Oak Harbor High School Principal Dick Devlin, and former Harbormaster Dave Williams.

“I have to say sincerely that everyone I’ve met in Oak Harbor is just wonderful. I think the city has a wonderful staff,” she said, heaping praise on Mayor Jim Slowik and City Administrator Paul Schmidt.

The position starts at $8,500 a month with benefits.

Hite commutes from her small farm in Bow, where she raises dairy sheep. The attorney once shared the misconception of many people that sheep cannot be milked. Au contraire, mon frere.

“You can milk sheep. They produce about a quart of milk a day,” she said. “I just started doing it and I’m really enjoying it.”

From the highest quality cheeses to “wonderful ice cream and yogurt,” the protein-rich milk produces sought-after, gourmet products.

Hite’s woolly friends will keep her in Bow, but she is excited to work in Oak Harbor, another picturesque section of the Pacific Northwest.

“Like everyone, I’ve done my share of hiking and exploring around Whidbey Island,” she said. “It’s absolutely beautiful.”

The attorney’s daughter, Emma, is a graduate student at New York University and will soon begin a PhD program in Mongolian archaeology. With roots firmly planted in Bow, Hite will be able to get vicarious thrills through Emma’s endeavors.

“She likes old bones,” she said.

City Administrator Paul Schmidt was confident in the selection and eager to accept the attorney into the Oak Harbor fold.

“We are obviously excited about Ms. Margery Hite joining the city family as our new city attorney,” he said. “Her qualifications are very impressive and all indications are she will be a good fit.”

Hite took over the position held for 27 years by Phil Bleyhl on March 3.

“I’ve met Mr. Blehyl and I have very large shoes to fill,” she said.

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