Helen Price Johnson, left, will temporarily replace Kristen Griffin as Ebey’s Reserve manager. (Photo by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times)

Helen Price Johnson, left, will temporarily replace Kristen Griffin as Ebey’s Reserve manager. (Photo by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times)

Former commissioner interim Ebey’s Reserve manager

Kristen Griffin has retired as manager of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve.

Kristen Griffin has retired after more than seven years as manager at Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, leaving behind a legacy of strong administrative skills.

Griffin was hired at Ebey’s in December 2013, but her passion for preservation began years earlier. Growing up in the Northwest, Griffin said she was surrounded by beautiful and historic lands.

She said she was heavily influenced by the beaches on the northwest coast and the museums and historic sites she visited as a child, where she learned about all kinds of local histories, from Native American heritage to military history to the history of canneries.

Before landing the job at Ebey’s, Griffin worked for the National Park Service in Alaska and as preservation officer for the city of Spokane and Spokane County. When she heard about the job at Ebey’s, she “jumped at the chance” to work on Whidbey.

“This really has been the most remarkable of the jobs that I’ve had in my career,” she said.

Her seven-plus years at Ebey’s were busy. She spearheaded the revitalization of the sheep barn on the Pratt Loop trail, converting the building into an outdoor educational space.

Just before COVID-19 hit in early 2020, Ebey’s was awarded $1 million by the state legislature for historic preservation. As the pandemic unfolded, Griffin led the team at Ebey’s in rapidly developing a grant program consisting of projects they would fund with the money from the state.

She even managed to keep the program active during the pandemic.

Griffin also developed a communication and interpretive plan and a strategic plan for the reserve.

“Those are really key planning documents that the trust board has put a lot of time and effort in under Kristen’s leadership,” said former Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson. “They’re going to build a roadmap for the future.”

Price Johnson will serve as the interim reserve manager for a few months until the reserve can make a permanent hire. Griffin hand-picked Price Johnson for the role.

While serving as commissioner, Price Johnson was the liaison between the county and the reserve trust board.

Griffin said Price Johnson was a “really important partner” to Ebey’s during her time in the county government, and the reserve was very lucky to have Price Johnson take the reins for a time.

One of her primary responsibilities during her time at the reserve will be to help the trust board hire a permanent manager.

“One of the things I’m really excited about, too, that I know is supported by the work that Kristen has done is expanding and deepening the stories of Ebey’s that predate the settlers,” Price Johnson said, adding that there are many opportunities right now to explore the area’s tribal culture and the geographical history.

Price Johnson said she will also use her connections with the county and her administrative skills to undertake some long-needed ordinance updates regarding the reserve.

Griffin’s last official day on the job was June 30, but her time at Ebey’s is far from over. She plans to make herself available during July to help Price Johnson transition smoothly into the manager role. She also signed up as a reserve volunteer — even bought herself a plot in Sunnyside Cemetery on the reserve.

“I cannot imagine my life without Whidbey Island and Ebey’s Reserve in it,” Griffin said.

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