From the interview with Carla Van der Ven conducted by Clio Ward on February 19, 2013
at the Fort Worden History Center in Fort Worden State Park. Ms. Van der Ven owns Port Townsend Hospitality, which she started in 2008. She has worked at Fort Worden in various capacities since 1984.
Here she discusses her business, and her career with Centrum in the years before:
“ We do janitorial and linen services, housekeeping in the rental houses for both state parks and the Centrum units up there. On a daily basis we are in the houses tidying them, changing sheets, towels. When people aren’t here we clean them this time of year. We deep clean, which is ceilings to walls to floors and carpet cleaning and all that just to get them ready for summer. Right now there are 12 full time employees,during the summer probably 18. The coin operated laundry was an original part of the business . The number of people who use it really varies. In the summer it’s real popular with all the workshops and things going on. We have eight machines. as far as how many people it’s really hard to tell. I just kind of go on every day when we empty the quarters. We had really good business here last night. Everybody had company here last night. We do have some pretty loyal repeat customers who come in, and half the time I think it’s just to visit, it’s very nice. We don’t open the coin op to the public until 3:30 in the afternoons and usually there’s somebody in the Laundromat until 4:30. So you get a chance to visit with a lot of people. It’s kind of fun.”
About her career with Centrum:
“ I have worked for Joe Wheeler at Centrum. He also owned Meister Burger in town. I had worked there for about a year. Then my husband and I moved away for a year. When we came back I asked him for another job and they just happened to have one at Centrum. I started there transcribing their mailing list. They used to use an old cardex system with little metal plates that had everybody’s name stamped in them. They would put them in the machine and run the brochures over the metal. My job was taking all the names from all those pieces of metal and putting them on a computer database.
Once the database was compiled then I worked kind of wherever they put me. I worked with Dolores Hansen doing record keeping and registration. I worked in the programs. I was kind of a program assistant. I could be at the schoolhouse when Fiddletunes or Jazz Port Townsend was going on and help the program director with whatever, get coffee or run here and make copies or things like that. Then I left for a couple of years for family stuff and came back and went to work as the Registrar. I did that for several years. Then I worked into being the program director for the Writers’ Conference. It was very interesting. The whole career at Centrum I got to meet some fairly awesome people, really nice people. I did that for ten years. I also coordinated travel for programs and did the contracting for all the programs for several years. I also was the liaison between Centrum and Parks. I worked on booking the spaces that we used. Then at the end I was the assistant to the executive director. I got to work with Joe Wheeler of course. Toni Aspin followed Joe and then Carol Shiffman, and then Thatcher Bailey. Joe was my champion throughout. He was an awesome human being. He believed that everybody had their job to do and they just do their job and his job was to raise money. He was super to work with. The other people who came in were a lot more number oriented, just educated in different ways. Personality wise, Joe could go and talk to any legislator or banker. We had some pretty high powered people on our board from Seattle for several years, especially around building the McCurdy Pavilion. Joe was a wonderful guy to work with. Each subsequent director had his or her own different style of managing and micromanaging . Thatcher was interesting to work with. He also was somebody who had his agenda and that was to get money for Centrum. When Thatcher came here, it was back to the ‘everybody just does their own job’ kind of thing . It was a pretty fun ride the whole time. I learned a lot from Joe and from a couple of the other directors, I learned what not to have happen or do. It’s such a resilient organization that it saw through wherever we had to go, so it’s been pretty fun.”