Schools' grounds, buildings in new hands

William J. Armbrust. -
William J. Armbrust.
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The new maintenance and grounds director for the Oak Harbor School District is taking an analytical approach to managing the department, one that officials say has long been neglected and needs some attention.

William J. Armbrust took over the reins on Monday, following the resignation of the former director after the illegal dumping of a pesticide prompted an investigation last year by the Environmental Protection Agency. Additionally, school board president Kathy Jones said recently that the department has been short changed in recent years and needs a strong leader and the influx of some cash in order to properly maintain the school district’s buildings and grounds.

Armbrust was hired following a management review by an independent contractor that recommended raising the standards of the department in both the quality of its leader and organizational procedures. Armbrust is starting with a salary of approximately $67,500, plus benefits, about a $15,000 per year raise over his predecessor, Gary Hansen.

Armbrust comes to the district following a 24-year career in facilities maintenance at Boeing. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a Master’s of Business Administration.

“I’d like to find out and assess what’s going on in the district,” Armbrust said in an interview Monday night. From there he will determine needs and priorities of the department.

His new job represents two major changes for Armbrust, who comes from Bellevue. The first is island living, and the second is making the professional transition from private sector to the public.

Armbrust and his wife had been looking for a way to get out of the city and into country living. Moving to Oak Harbor has fulfilled that desire as well as a professional goal for Armbrust.

“There’s actually two reasons (for taking this job). The first is that my wife and I were trying to find a way to move to the island for more than a year. The second reason is that I’ve had such rounded experience over that last 24 years that I wanted to utilize,” Armbrust said.

The biggest difference between working for a private company and employment in the private sector that Armbrust can tell so far, he said, is that in a public entity people communicate better and much more frequently. He already likes what he sees.

“What I’m really impressed with is all the professionalism both in the maintenance team and the school district in general,” he said.

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