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Farm manager; consultant hired

The Greenbank Farm has been without a manager since Laura Blankenship resigned in a swirl of controversy in April.

The farm’s management group filled that vacancy Monday by naming Cheryl Sagmeister farm manager. The board announced her hiring during a morning meeting mainly attended by business owners who operate at the farm.

In a separate move, Langley resident Paul Samuelson was hired temporarily as a consultant.

Sagmeister has lived in Langley for the past four years and she has been a consultant for Northwest Folklife, The Center for Touch Drawing, and the LINK “at risk” youth program.

Prior to that she worked as operations manager for Artsource, Inc., a high-end technical/graphics placement firm. She also has eight years’ experience working for Aquent Partners.

She said she applied to work at the farm to get involved with a non-profit organization.

“I’m excited about this. I think it’s a great venture,” Sagmeister said during the meeting.

Blankenship resigned as executive director after five years with the Greenbank Farm. She had expressed frustration with how the board was overseeing her duties, particularly bookkeeping.

At the time she resigned, the management group also decided to start negotiating with the farm’s owner, the Port of Coupeville, about ending the group’s operating agreement. The goal was to put the port in charge of day-to-day operations at the farm.

The all-volunteer management group and the port are still setting up a timeline for when the negotiations should end. The management group wants a one-year to two-year timeline while the port wants negotiations concluded by the end of this year.

That question will be answered in coming months as the port and the management group hash out responsibilities of each organization.

“It’s a question on the table and that’s where it is at this point,” said Tom Baenen, president of the group.

He emphasized the management group is still bound by the requirements of the current management agreement that still has eight years to run unless changed.

Sagmeister will be on duty five days a week and earn $2,500 a month. Baenen said operations will remain unchanged.

Sagmeister’s hiring comes one week after a special Port of Coupeville meeting where many of the 40 people attending voiced their support for Blankenship. She said she had resigned under pressure. But any chance of getting her job back ended with the hiring of Sagmeister.

Sagmeister isn’t the only new face at the Greenbank Farm.

Baenen said 12 people applied for the position and around seven were interviewed.

The management group picked Langley resident Paul Samuelson as a consultant. He is under contract for the next four months.

Samuelson, a barber by trade, is a former school board member for the South Whidbey School District, and a former board chairman for Whidbey Island Center for the Arts.

He will help with board development, organization development for the farm and assist the board in articulating its vision. He will also handle community relations for the farm.

“This is a place for the community belonging to all of the community,” Samuelson said.

He is contracted with the farm for the next four months depending on needs. He will earn a stipend of $10,000.

The negotiations between the management group and the Port of Coupeville will come up again during the port’s regularly-scheduled meeting taking place today, July 12, at 10:30 a.m. at the Greenbank Farm’s Jim Davis House.

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