A Letter from Tim
It was late 2002, and I had just settled into a chair across from Ted Grossman in his cramped office in Eastsound. Ted had served for decades as the editor of The Islands’ Sounder, Orcas Island’s newspaper, and he wanted to interview me after learning I was the new executive director of the Preservation Trust. With his rasping voice and thick white hair angled high above his head, Ted was a well-known fixture on Orcas.
“So tell me,” he began the interview. “What’s it like to run the largest nonprofit in the San Juan Islands that no one has ever heard of?”
I wasn’t sure if Ted’s opening salvo was intended to convey his admiration or his ambivalence, but I didn’t take it very well.
Fast-forward 15 years, and I wish I could take another swing at that question. I would admit that the Preservation Trust does do things quietly, often without notice or fanfare, and I believe that approach has served us well. We purposely stay out of politics, and we are very judicious about injecting
ourselves into public discourse or litigation. As our government partners interact with elected officials and the press in their open meetings, we are (quietly) at work in another room structuring the deals and raising the money. For every splashy community fundraising campaign we lead,
we (quietly) complete dozens of other projects with visionary landowners and donors—the true heroes in our story.
While quiet accomplishment may not attract attention from newspaper editors, we have somehow attracted you to this mission. And you are all we really need. Thanks to your vision, trust, and support, we’ve done—quietly and together—more for our beloved San Juans than any of us could have ever dreamed. Today we own more island real estate than anyone else (private or public), and we are ranked 29th out of more than 1,300 land conservation groups in the country as measured in number of properties protected. Not bad for such a meek little outfit, right?
I’ve never fully recovered from that interview in Ted Grossman’s office. But as I wrap up my final year as the executive director of this organization, I can finally admit that Ted was (mostly) right: The San Juan Preservation Trust is indeed the largest nonprofit in these islands that no one—except for you and your fellow 3,000+ supporting Preservation Trust members—has ever heard of. And that’s just fine by me.
With gratitude from the islands,