Interview With Kate Burke

From the interview with Kate Burke of Port Townsend conducted by Patience Rogge at the Fort Worden History Center on April 12, 2010.  Ms. Burke was Park Manager at Fort Worden from 2003 to 2012.  Here she describes the  process that led to her hiring:

“The State Parks had put out a national broadcast for anybody interested in this position.  So I submitted, along with I’m sure a variety of other people, and was selected as a finalist.  I was really surprised I was selected because I thought it was an unbelievable place.  They had it narrowed down to six candidates. I interviewed.  It was the most grueling interview I had ever been through in my life.  They had me come out from Indianapolis and I spent two and a half days here.  The first day was spent touring the park with staff, and that’s when I met Susan Thomas, who works in the customer service office.  Then I had an interview with a panel of six people, there were people from the Fort Warden Advisory Committee, Russ Hendricks, Mike Zimmerman from Fort Flagler, Carol Shiffman who was head of Centrum at that time, Wayne McLaughlin, and Tim Caldwell from the Chamber.  The next day I had to interview with the staff and volunteers.  All six of us got up in front and took questions from the staff and volunteers.  In the evening we had to do a public forum where the public was able to ask all six of us questions, and we answered.  The next day was when I actually started eating again. So, it was a very long process.  I was just sure that Jack Hartt, who had been here as a ranger and is such a fluid and articulate speaker, was the obvious candidate.  I was very surprised when they offered me the job.”

In answer to the questions about challenges she faced as the only non-ranger Park Manager in Washington and the unique character of Fort Worden:

“There have been issues coming up along the way because there is law enforcement involved.  I relied heavily on Todd Jensen, who is the chief law enforcement officer.  Even though I supervise Todd, I really give him the latitude to supervise all of the law enforcement because he has the background and training.  I am very aware of what the rangers do.  I’ve gone through the defensive tactics training, the phys ed training, and their law enforcement training, just so I’d have a better understanding of their jobs.  As for other challenges, it is much like any other government system.  You have to work through a lot of different policies and procedures that are different with every government agency.  State agencies are much different from the city of Indianapolis and the county metropolitan system that I had worked for, because each of them has different governance.  Here it means getting acclimated to understanding the policies and procedures, which do change year to year.  You have to keep up to date, it’s not static and you can’t say ‘I’ve looked at it once when I started and that’s that.’ You have to continuously review the laws and the administrative code that goes along with the job.  I think this job is not the typical state parks job.  Go to many of the state parks and they are campgrounds, recreational areas, and maybe some hiking trails.  Here, it is housing for a variety of not only vacationers and tourists, but we also have the concept of the conference center and the various partners that are housed at the park. I think that’s again quite unique.  None of the other parks have this many differing organizations—we have both state organizations and private businesses as well as non-profit businesses.  So, it is a different animal in that you’re not just dealing with the state and its issues but you are dealing with a variety of different businesses that rely on you. Also, we’re reliant on them to help us with bringing people here.  Then you also have the variety of people who come here—people who come through the gates every year guarantee that there’s going to be a lot of interactions that you just are never going to know what’s going to happen.”

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