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September 24, 2012 -  11:08 am

Port Gamble, Olympic Property Group, Pope ResourcesIf you ever have a question about Port Gamble, finding the answer is simple. Just track down Shana Smith.

Smith, the town’s manager, is a walking compendium of knowledge about this historic mill town located at the junction of Hood Canal. It’s the kind of knowledge that comes from first-hand experience of living in town since 1987 and working there since 1995. And it’s the kind of knowledge that helps ensure that Port Gamble remains an exciting place to live, work and play in north Kitsap County.

Not many people go to school to become town managers, and Smith is no exception. After graduating with a food economics degree from University of Montana, she went to work as a home economist for the Washington Fryer Commission and eventually moved to Seattle to work for National Food Corporation. Then love took a hand. Smith married, and her husband worked at the lumber mill in Port Gamble.

“We lived in Port Gamble, but I continued to commute to Seattle,” Smith said. “Then I took a summer off and immediately got bored about a month into it. So I looked for something to do in Port Gamble, which led to a job in the Port Gamble nursery and eventually the Port Gamble General Store.”

Smith went on to work in the Port Gamble Museum and even cleaned houses around the town as people relocated in the wake of the mill closure in 1995. She took on additional responsibilities for leasing and tenant management before being named town manager in 2001.

“In many ways, it was a new position for the town,” she said. “When the mill was operating, the mill manager also served as the town’s manager.”

Weddings and ghosts in a bustling community

Today, Smith oversees a bustling, 121-acre community with 52 buildings housing 25 residential residents and 40 commercial tenants. Her staff, which includes eight full-time employees and eight additional seasonal workers, takes care of the museum, manages landscaping duties throughout the town and runs a growing wedding business that was bolstered when the Port Gamble Pavilion opened in 2009.

The town got into the wedding business in 2003 and we had 13 weddings that year,” Smith said. “We’ll do 80 weddings in 2012. People come from all over the United States for weddings at Port Gamble.”

Port Gamble also is known as one of the centers of paranormal activity in the Pacific Northwest, and Smith gets into ghosts.

“There’s the whole paranormal, ghost side of things here, which I really enjoy,” she said. “Almost every building in town has some kind of haunting and oddity. It really helps with exposure for Port Gamble, given all the media that’s out there now.”

The Port Gamble Ghost Conference, held annually in October, attracts nearly 100 participants and Smith leads regularly scheduled Ghost Walk tours throughout the year. With all this activity, there’s really no such thing as a typical day for Port Gamble’s town manager.

“It’s essentially like running a small business and much of what I do is not very glamorous,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of administrative work – accounting, payroll, staffing, and so on. I also end up fielding a lot of random questions from people, like what’s the paint color on the pavilion or what kinds of flowers do we have planted in a particular garden. It just takes time to research answers and get back to them.”

Port Gamble, Olympic Property Group, Pope Resources

At left, Shana Smith rocks with local band Chasing Mona at a recent Port Gamble concert

Smith also works closely with current tenants. “I want to make sure they’re doing well and answer any questions or concerns that they might have,” she said. “Having a good relationship with our current tenants can lead to new opportunities.”

In addition to her Port Gamble responsibilities, Smith is the president-elect for the Kitsap Chapter of the National Association of Residential Property Managers and the 2012 chair for the organization’s national convention coming up in Washington, D.C. She also is active in the North Kitsap Tourism Consortium and is part of an in-house committee working on Port Gamble’s Redevelopment Master Plan, which is scheduled to be submitted to the county for review by the end of 2012.

Port Gamble is a historic town with deep roots, but Smith believes the Master Plan is key to the town’s future success.

“It’s very vital for Port Gamble’s existence that it grows and is able to sustain itself,” Smith said. “There always will be the historic nature and atmosphere, but the Master Plan will inject more energy and life here, and that will be exciting to see. It’s been great to see the north Kitsap community support the plan, and that bodes well for Port Gamble’s future.”

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