Ebey’s Reserve has a new captain at the helm.
Marie Shimada, a South Whidbey High School graduate and the new reserve manager, started on Tuesday.
Shimada developed her passion for public service while earning her law degree at the University of San Diego. After graduating, she moved back to her home state of Washington to launch her career in the nonprofit sector.
Though she started in fundraising, her professional trajectory eventually led her to the field of farmland preservation and agricultural advocacy.
“I really have a huge heart for farmers, and for farming, and for learning about local food systems and how important food is,” she said.
When she heard that Ebey’s Reserve was hiring a manager, she said she felt called to return to Whidbey.
Shimada said she sought advice from her longtime friend and professional mentor, Helen Price Johnson, the former county commissioner who had been serving as interim reserve manager since July. In speaking with Price Johnson about the position, Shimada discovered that the job lay right at the intersection of the agricultural sector and local politics — two fields Shimada enjoys working with.
Shimada was also a member of the inaugural cohort of Leadership Whidbey, a local leadership education program that launched in 2021. She said the experience left her inspired to pursue an on-island leadership position to better the local community.
Of course, what Shimada called Whidbey’s “magical beauty” didn’t hurt, either.
“Anybody in the world would be lucky to have a job that brings them here,” she said. “You’re so surrounded by nature. You’re surrounded by community.”
Her primary goal going into the position is to assist the reserve trust board in accomplishing its 2022 work plan, the facets of which include various preservation, education and partnership building strategies.
She also has a personal goal to meet everyone who lives within the boundaries of the reserve.
“I really want this office to feel like it has an open door policy,” she said. “I want everybody to feel comfortable coming to me, telling me about their experiences with the reserve and their wishes for the future.”