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Mayor wants new race planner

Mayor Scott Dudley is actively seeking a replacement for Whidbey Island Marathon coordinator Tamra Sipes.

But if the mayor can’t find another person or organization to run the marathon by July 1, Sipes may still end up with the job.

On Tuesday, Sipes met with Dudley to discuss her future organizing the event, but no resolution was reached.

“We don’t see eye to eye,” Dudley said.

Dudley said he believes Sipes has mismanaged the event and wants to take her role in a different direction.

“Is she an option? Yes,” Dudley said.

“Would I rather improve that greatly? Absolutely.”

Dudley has taken issue with the $23,000 bonus Sipes received for the 2014 event.

The bonus was intended to be an incentive to boost race enrollment, and it was a plan Dudley himself proposed as an incentive to increase marathon participation.

In order to get people enrolled, Sipes said she decreased enrollment fees in a special promotion which proved to be far more successful than she anticipated.

The event attendance this year soared to 2,800, but the city says the event was an overall money loser with total revenues at $153,000 and expenses at an all time high of $190,000.

Dudley said he was pleased with the attendance, which was a concern of his since taking office, but not about the method Sipes used to boost numbers.

“Were we happy with that? Absolutely,” Dudley said. “The way it came about, by slashing registration fees and adding kids events … I’m not overly thrilled about how we got there.”

In addition to money concerns, Dudley said that Sipes is not a marathon runner and overlooks details that are important to runners.

Dudley said he has completed 18 marathons and knows how they should be operated.

“There’s no doubt she could make the Whidbey Island Marathon better if she wants to,” Dudley said. “I question her motivation. At this point we have no contract with her.”

“There’s no cost to explore our options.”

Tuesday’s meeting was “uneventful,” according to Sipes. She said it mainly involved Dudley asking questions about the marathon.

Sipes said City Administrator Larry Cort also attended the meeting.

When discussing a possible contract for her services, Sipes said she asked for a two-year deal with a $2,000 raise, but no incentives.

“I’ve never needed the incentives,” Sipes said. “It’s not something that drives me. I’m doing it because I love the event.”

Sipes said her main frustration is hearing from others — and the newspaper — that Dudley was unhappy with her performance rather than from the mayor himself.

“I was surprised by the mayor’s thoughts on this,” Sipes said. “He doesn’t talk to me. He doesn’t tell me what he wants. Whatever the mayor and the council want me to do, I’ll do it.”

The time Dudley is taking to look at other candidates is resulting in lost opportunities in terms of allowing whoever is managing to start planning and securing sponsors for the next marathon, said Sipes.

Dudley said he has a “problem with complacency” and believes it’s to the City of Oak Harbor’s advantage to explore other candidates.

“I’m trying to make the Whidbey Island Marathon a better experience as a whole,” Dudley said.

The city council, which continues to support Sipes as coordinator, unanimously voted to consider a two-year contract for the position no later than July 1. However, the mayor retains the power to select the person who fills the role.

Dudley said a request for qualifications will go out next week. He said he’s seeking anyone with race or event planning experience.

Despite Dudley’s issues with her, Sipes said she would still take on the role if asked.

 

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