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Reserve manager accepts job at Montana park

Reserve Manager Mark Preiss poses for a picture with Ebey’s Bluff in the background. Preiss, who was hired in 2007, is leaving for a job in Montana. - Justin Burnett / Whidbey News-Times
Reserve Manager Mark Preiss poses for a picture with Ebey’s Bluff in the background. Preiss, who was hired in 2007, is leaving for a job in Montana.
— image credit: Justin Burnett / Whidbey News-Times

After more than six years at the helm, Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve Manager Mark Preiss is hanging up his hat and headed for high country.

Preiss has accepted a position as chief executive officer of Glacier National Park Conservancy, the nonprofit fundraising partner for the Montana-based park.

His last day on the job is set for July 31.

Leaving was a difficult decision but Preiss said he feels good about his tenure and is proud of what the community has accomplished.

“I think we’ve shown what’s possible,” Preiss said. “People were ready and committed. How can you not be optimistic about the future when you see what’s been accomplished?”

“Ebey’s has always been about possibilities,” he said.

Al Sherman, a longtime Central Whidbey farmer and Trust Board member, credited Preiss with a series of successes, from his role in helping to overhaul county and Coupeville design review rules to shepherding over innovative new programs that leverage community support.

“He’s done a great, job, he really has,” Sherman said. “He just got things done.”

Preiss took over for longtime manager Rob Harbour in 2007.

Interviewed by the Whidbey Examiner shortly after his hiring, Harbour said he knew from the start that Preiss was the right guy for the job.

“In our first meeting, he wasn’t wearing a tie,” Harbour said. “I knew he’d fit in well in Coupeville.”

But Preiss did more than just fit in. According to Jan Pickard, also a Trust Board member, his “visionary leadership style” not only energized the public but galvanized community efforts into a cohesive and effective force.

To start, the reserve’s 30th birthday saw the establishment of the annual Ebey’s Forever Conference. The event would later give birth to the highly successful Ebey’s Forever Fund.

The community-driven grant program aims to help struggling property owners with the high cost of maintaining historic structures. In 2013 alone, the fund contributed $100,000 to 13 property owners.

Preiss also helped set up a preservation field school, another program that leverages community support by using volunteers to complete needed work on historic structures.

The program has benefitted a handful of famous structures, from the Ferry House and the Alexander Blockhouse to the Boyer Barn, which is believed to be the oldest barn on Whidbey Island.

“The field school concept was really just a new form of community barn raising,” Preiss said.

While Preiss is proud of the work he’s done, he is adamant that the accomplishments over the past six years are really those of the community.

All he did was provide a few nudges in the right direction.

“What I’m most proud of is I was invited to be a part of this, a part of Ebey’s, to feel its story and help preserve and sustain its unbroken record,” Preiss said.

Pickard said the Trust Board will likely hire an interim director to fill in until the position can be filled with a permanent replacement.

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