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Sara Thompson

Sara Thompson

When Peninsula School District (PSD) Superintendent Chuck Cuzzetto announced his retirement last year, the school board found itself with a big addition to its job description: hiring his replacement. And now, following a nearly seven-month process, they can declare their mission accomplished.

In March, Key Peninsula Sportsmen’s Club President Don Holman called its 830th meeting to order. Members of this local nonprofit organization have gathered to enjoy each other’s company and raise money to support the community for nearly six decades.

And on Sunday, April 24, they are holding the Key Peninsula’s longest-running annual fundraiser: the Fisherman’s Breakfast. From 7:30 a.m. to noon $6 will get you a meal of pancakes, ham and eggs. For those six and younger the meal is free. A yard sale that Saturday and Sunday will add to the experience. Tickets are available from club members and at the door.

They look forward to a bigger-than-ever event, hoping to feed at least 300. Proceeds will go to support local nonprofits. Each year the club supports Key Peninsula Community Services and the KP Little League. They also give children scholarships to go to camp for a week on Orcas Island and adopt two families at Christmas through the Children’s Home Society.

“We were established in 1947,” said club president Don Holman. “It started out as a sportsmen’s club with such activities as skeet shooting, but over time we have shifted to be a social club.”   

Fisherman’s Breakfast

Sunday, April 24

7:30 a.m.-noon

Pancakes, ham and eggs

Key Peninsula Sportsmen’s Club

3503 Jackson Lake Road

$6 per person, children six and under free

Located on Jackson Lake, the clubhouse was built from lumber cut on the property in 1955. The club leases land to the 12 households there, and income from the leases supports the basic infrastructure and maintenance for the homes and clubhouse.

There are scheduled events each month. Members meet for a potluck dinner and business meeting, enjoy a bingo night and a Bunco night as well as a luncheon. Connections run deep; several members are second-generation.

Randy Viers, board member and publicity chair, is one of several second-generation members; his parents used to live at the club, and now his brother has moved there. “We welcome new members,” he said.

When asked about membership requirements, Holman said, “We ask that new members be sponsored by a current member and be at least 45 years old. But the main qualification is that you should want to have fun!”

Anyone interested in joining should contact Bill Smith, the club secretary, at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

For more information, go to:

When Peninsula School District Superintendent Chuck Cuzzetto announced his retirement, the school board found itself with a big addition to its job description –– hiring his replacement. That process is now underway, and residents have a chance to weigh in.

The board’s first step was to hire NW Leadership Associates to guide the process. The firm has advertised the position through postings and interpersonal connections.

Mark Venn and Wayne Robertson, the principals of NW Leadership Associates, held 30 focus groups with a wide range of constituents including community leaders, parents, students, staff and administrators.

They asked three questions No. 1: What is working in the Peninsula District and what are you proud of? No. 2: What are the challenges? No. 3: What attributes are you looking for in a superintendent?

Venn and Robinson summarized their findings at a school board meeting on Feb 11.

There were common threads describing desirable attributes in a superintendent. They included involvement and visibility, promotion of partnerships, passion, strong communication skills, background and experience as an educator, creativity, understanding and experience in finance, and courage in decision making.  

The focus group input we received will be very valuable to the board as they make the decision and move forward on hiring a new Peninsula superintendent. Wayne Robertson and I have enjoyed working with the board and the community and look forward to continuing the search and presenting the board with a high quality group of candidates,” Venn said.

They received 25 inquiries, and applications to the position closed Feb 23.   

Selection of the Superintendent: Community Participation

Interviews of semifinalists at an all-day open public meeting

When: March 5

Time: 8:30 a.m. at the District office

Q &A with individual finalists March 14, 15, 16

Time: 6:30 p.m. at Henderson Bay High School

8402 Skansie Avenue, Gig Harbor, WA 98332

The next steps will be to screen the applicants and to present them to the board to narrow the pool to five or six semi-finalists.

Those applicants will be interviewed individually on March 5. Community members are welcome to attend and will be provided with comment cards which the board will review at the end of the day. The board will then meet in a closed executive session to narrow the field to three finalists.

Finalists will be interviewed on three separate days, Mar 14, 15 and 16. An open community meeting is scheduled each day. Community members will be provided with comment cards to be reviewed by the board, and after the community meeting the board will conduct an additional interview.

At a final executive session, the board will determine whether they can then make a final decision or if they need further information.

The board plans to hire the new superintendent by spring so he or she has an ample opportunity to get oriented prior to Superintendent Cuzzetto’s retirement in July. 

Who would have guessed that observing at-risk kids respond to working on art projects would lead to a thriving Key Peninsula nonprofit organization? But that is exactly what happened. Today, Two Waters Arts Alliance (TWAA) celebrates a rich community of artists and supports arts education for young people and adults.

In 2001, Dennis Taylor noticed that hands-on art projects really engaged the at-risk youth he saw in his work. He reached out to two local artists, tapestry artist Margot Macdonald and photographer Kathy Bauer. One year later, TWAA was incorporated, joining artists and supporters of the arts.

We have had many leaders and volunteers, all with a drive to keep the arts alive on the KP. Together we have provided art exhibits, performing arts, art walks, instruction in the arts for all ages and one of our goals is to always pay artists for their work, Bauer said.

In our rural community, with limited resources, the schools have not had the capacity to offer arts experience for all students. TWAA has taken advantage of a talented pool of local and interested artists to bring arts experiences to the schools and, more recently, to home-schooled students. 

Artists in Schools(AIS)brings art to the classroom with an impressive coordination of performance and visual art to enhance classroom curriculum. Tears of Joy, an Olympia-based literature and puppetry group from Olympia provides the performance, selecting a new theme each year. This year it is medieval dragon folklore. Teachers then opt in to have local professional artists come to the classroom to provide hands-on projects that creatively blend the theme of the performance with their curriculum.

After School Arts(ASA)pays artists to teach after school classes and workshops. These offerings are less formal than the AIS classes and do not require the involvement of a classroom teacher. Classes are offered every Tuesday and Thursday at Key Peninsula Middle School.   

Want to get involved?

Board meeting: 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month at the VFW room in the KP Community Center.

Save the date: March 31, 6 to 8 p.m. at Blend. Share your ideas and vision for arts on the Key Peninsula: Engaging the Arts in Your Community. Wine and light hors doeuvres provided.

For information, visit 

The home school arts program, new this year, offers art classes to about 15 students between the ages of four and 13.

When the Red Barn received a grant to offer arts activities during their after-school program, they reached out to TWAA to teach. The result –– a series of weekly 90-minute classes that were a great success.

TWAA does more than offer education for school-aged students. Adult classes have been hugely popular. Patty Finnigan, who coordinates the classes, stated that there will be a card making class in March, with ones in clay, water soluble oils and alcohol inks are being scheduled.

Juried art shows, exhibits at the library and Blend Wine Shop showcase the work of our local artists. An open meeting on the first Tuesday of each month from 4 to 6 p.m. at Blend allows artists to meet and share ideas.

This summer TWAA sponsored its first Art Walk and it was so successful that they plan to repeat and perhaps even expand later this year.

All of this good work takes energy and money. Although the school program coordinators and artists are paid stipends for their time and materials, much of the work is accomplished by a dedicated group of volunteers. Fundraising has depended on public and private foundation grants, individual donations and membership. The Spring Fling, the every-other-year extravaganza held at the Key Peninsula Civic Center is their major money-raising event. 


Bauer, who recently announced her decision to step down from the board, noted, TWAA aims to maintain vibrant arts programs on the Key Peninsula and ensure arts education thrives in its schools. We have a critical and immediate need for organizers and volunteers. Adria Hansen, who coordinates the home school program, agreed. Some of the skills we could use are managerial, financial and teaching, she added. 

Nearly four decades ago Angels arrived on the Key Peninsula. They werent called Angels at first; they were simply seven women responding to a call. In 1972 a nurse, Jean Broadsack, had started a small health clinic located in the Longbranch Church. She asked them to provide help to people in need. Working out of the church basement, they collected and distributed used clothing.

In 1978, as the health clinic grew, Broadsack asked those women to form an auxiliary to support the clinic. Sisters Marge Radonich and Shirley Olson, recalling that their father called their mother his angel, suggested a name for the auxiliary. The Angel Guild was born. One year later, in 1979, they presented their first check to the clinic for $1,000. Between then and 1986, when they became an entity separate from the clinic, they raised more than $12,000.

What followed is truly inspiring. The Angel Guild, now an organization of about 60 dedicated women, has raised well over half a million dollars to support worthy causes on the Key Peninsula.

There have been a number of location changes –– from the Longbranch Church they moved to a small building in Home for a year. When they lost that site, they stored clothes in a basement until they found a new location in Key Center where Sunnycrest Nursery is today. In 1983, they moved again into the KC Corral. In 2005 they made their final move, this time just next door.

The operation of a thrift shop is no small feat. With a core of volunteers and one paid coordinator the Angel Guild is truly a machine. Carla Parkhurst, our coordinator, is the heart of the Angel Guild, said Dianna Home, vice-president. She makes our wheels run.

In addition to having at least two clerks and a float to help customers in the store at all times, there is enormous behind-the-scene work to be done. Donations must be sorted, cleaned and priced. Shelves must be stocked. It can be a physically demanding job, they said. Department heads focus on specific areas including toys, books, childrens books, arts/crafts/fabrics, linens, Christmas and jewelry to be sure they are priced and organized appropriately.

Members are rightfully proud of the store. Ours is the cleanest, most pleasant thrift shop I know, said Joyce Salatino, second vice-president and volunteer. And we smell good, added Home.

Donations are received Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the donation shed behind the shop in Key Center.

We strive to have quality items and appreciate it if donations are shelf-ready, said Pat Kunzl, treasurer. We dont have laundry facilities. And please, if you love your Angels, do take the donations to the area in the back of the shop. It is difficult to carry donations from our front door to the donation shed.

Board members commented that they have many regulars who arrive first thing on Tuesday to see what new items have been added to the shelves. They strive to keep essential items –– clothing, household items and linens –– very affordable. Vouchers for essentials are available at the food bank and at Childrens Home Society.

Other items are priced at what might be considered more of a market rate to raise the money they then distribute through their grants. If the guild receives a donation with a value that exceeds what they can sell it for at the store, they sell it on eBay.  

Grants are awarded each month based on earnings. Awards are made only to organizations (not individuals) and are limited those serving the Key Peninsula community. Anyone interested in applying can visit the shop to get a description of criteria and directions.

Requests received by the end of each month are considered for the following month. A committee meets to review and make recommendations, and the entire guild body then votes at the general meeting. They welcome all requests, large and small.   

 Angel Guild Basics

Location: KC Corral in Key Center

Phone: 253 884-9333

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Store hours: T-Sat 9:30-3:30

Donations: M-Sat 9:30-3:30

The money raised each year has steadily grown. From that first $1000 in 1979, the Angel Guild raised $31,000 in 1998, then $46,000 in 2003 and $63,000 in 2010. Last year brought the largest total yet, with $104,000.

The funds have supported many worth organizations, including our local schools, the library, the nonprofits serving our community and Peninsula Light Co. assistance program.


Phyllis Henry, longtime volunteer and board member, commented, We have an environment of mutual respect. What we have accomplished is pretty remarkable, and I think it works because we are women.

Have you wondered how to let Pierce County officials know about your concerns or ideas for improving life in our rural community? The Key Peninsula Land Use Advisory Commission (KPAC) is working to open a better two-way channel of communication, according to chair Don Swensen.

KPAC was established in 2008. In April 2014 a two-year pilot program expanded the role of KPAC.

An ordinance passed by the county council expanded its role beyond land use and development, and modified the function of KPAC to focus on communication between all county departments and Key Peninsula residents, property owners and business owners regarding significant issues affecting the communityincluding but not limited to land use, environmental regulations, infrastructure, schools, transportation improvements, and public safety. 

As a result of that ordinance, four directors of the Key Peninsula Community Council (KPC) were appointed to the KPAC in addition to those from the community at large. The pilot project ends in April but is expected to be renewed, and, in fact, Swensen plans to expand the role of KPAC.

We meet monthly and want to adopt the policy of being the conduit between residents and the Pierce County Council for issues relevant to the health, safety and well-being of the Key Peninsula,Swensen said. As the only official appointed county body for our community, that should be our role.

He noted that Derek Young, our county councilman, has been very responsive. He has been a good ally and has really worked to get to know our issues since his election. But he is just one person. We need additional ways to communicate our ideas and concerns.

Toni Fairbanks, who is the county liaison for the KPAC meetings has also been very responsive. She attends all meetings.

Fairbanks said it is a great time to get involved with the commission. There are openings for community members, and several of the KP Community Council positions will need to be filled. Terms are for four years with a two-term limit.

We aim to be a broadly representative group,Swensen said.

KPAC meets on the third Wednesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the VFW Room at the Key Peninsula Civic Center. The meetings are open to all for public comment.

If you have issues you would like to address, the group recommends coming to a meeting or contacting Swensen. His email is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

If you are interested in an at-large position, applications are available online:

Once received, the application is reviewed for recommendation by the Pierce County Executive and presented for approval to the Pierce County Council. Terms are for four years and members can serve up to two terms. 

Sunday, 03 January 2016 01:14

Citizens Against Crime gets informed

Citizens Against Crime (CAC) members took advantage of a program offered by the Pierce County Sheriffs Department to learn more about how the department works, and they plan to use that information to make the Key Peninsula a safer place.

CAC President Cindy Worden, vice-president Dee Starr and member Adam Worden spent one evening a week for 13 weeks attending the academy. Cindy Worden, who had participated in a similar program a number of years ago, said that the curriculum has been updated and would be worthwhile for any citizen.

We learned how the department works,she said. We gained understanding of what they can and cant do, why they sometimes cant come the minute you make a call.

For her, highlights included a presentation by Sheriff Pastor describing how he runs the department and the qualities he seeks in selecting officers. She also found the tour of the evidence room very helpful. The participants saw what common illicit drugs look like.

About 15 to 20 people from the Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula participated. A repeat of the academy should take place in the spring, and Worden will spread the word once the schedule is announced.

CAC now has its official 501c3 status, and is working on getting citizen patrols back on the road. They welcome new members.

If interested, call Worden at (253) 851-2401, or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  

According to a Pierce County press release, on Dec. 15, the Pierce County Council repealed its de facto ban on marijuana production and sales in unincorporated areas.

The bill changes the conditional use permit process by eliminating a requirement that sellers prove the sale of marijuana is not a Schedule 1 drug under the Federal Controlled Substance Act. In addition, marijuana retailers are no longer required to operate in stand-alone buildings.

The changes were sponsored by Democratic councilmembers Derek Young, Connie Ladenburg and Rick Talbert. Councilman Doug Richardson supported the measure after the council agreed to create a fund to pay for marijuana enforcement.

After the ordinance was passed, councilwoman Joyce McDonald, who voted against removing the marijuana ban, proposed an advisory vote to be presented to rural county voters in April. Talbot, voting along party lines, supported that motion, which passed by a 4-3 margin.

According to the Tacoma News Tribune, there are more than 200,000 voters in unincorporated Pierce County. Auditor Julie Anderson estimated that the cost of the advisory vote would be $425,000.

Young noted that voters in every council district approved Initiative 502 in 2012, including rural areas that passed it 52 to 48 percent.

Young commented, If you look at the map, there are very few precincts where this initiative wasnt popular. We don't have $425,000 for this vote, and even if we end up having the vote, it's not binding,he said.

Young said the ordinance goes into effect regardless of the outcome.

The council would have to pass a new ordinance rescinding this one. I just can't see the Pierce County Executive signing that one, he said.

Editor's note: This is the third article in a three-part series on marijuana and the Key Peninsula.

Marijuana is big business, and growing marijuana is where that business begins. Washington state has collected more than $130.5 million in excise taxes and $40 million in sales taxes in the last year and a half, according to 502 Data, a website that tracks marijuana sales. Pierce County has collected nearly $10.6 million from excise taxes.

Marijuana growing on the Key Peninsula dates back to the 70s, when an influx of renegades took advantage of the rural, let-well-enough-alonesetting. One member of the early Key Peninsula marijuana growers, who asked to remain anonymous, said he arrived in 1978, after about a decade of experience growing and selling in Arizona and Hawaii.

It was a bit like the old West back then,he said. Land and water were cheap, you could live in a double-wide, and with about $15,000, you could get started.

Growing was all outside, and everyone learned as they went.

We flew by the seats of our pants,he recalled. Over time, the growers honed their skills combining strains, understanding how to grow clones (cuttings from plants allowing for pure strains from mother plants) and improving the yields.

By the mid-1980s, with the advent of indoor lights, growing moved inside. It meant that a grower could get two or three harvests in a year rather than be limited to one. At the same time, Californians arrived, bringing additional strains and expertise. Guerilla gardeningtook off.

That all changed in the early 1990s, when methamphetamine arrived. Those seeking a cheap high moved to the cheaper, more addictive drug.

The pot market fell off the cliff,the KP grower said.

At about that time, he was arrested, served a short time in jail and paid a significant fine. He quit growing and selling in the recreational market but had connections with those requesting medical marijuana primarily AIDS patients. Although medical marijuana was not yet decriminalized, he was able to provide for that market. He feels he was left alone by the authorities at that time because he was serving a population in need.

Most of the marijuana grown in Western Washington was grown on the Key Peninsula or near Bonney Lake,he said. Many of those growers are gone now. They lived hard lives.

Medical Collectives

In 1998, when medical marijuana was decriminalized, the state allowed collectives to form. Patients and their caregivers could come together to grow their own supply and also donate to other patients.

Clint Pipkin, who now owns Herb-N-Wellness, said that early collective members had to feel their way it was not entirely clear what was allowed. But he also said that for anyone wanting to be as legal as possible, joining a collective was the way to go. By 2000, collective gardens were pretty well established. Pipkin estimates that there are about a dozen of collectives on the Key Peninsula now.

Up to 10 patients (or their caregivers) could join in a collective, each growing up to 15 plants. Surplus cannabis could be sold or donated to other patients. The medicinal shops that first opened on the KP in 2010 served as a place to bring surplus and sell to those with medical authorization.

In July 2016, the rules pertaining to collective gardens will change. The number of people in a collective will be limited to four, and each person will be allowed to grow a maximum of six plants.

In addition, the stores will have to be licensed and will be required to purchase cannabis from state-licensed producers. At this time, growing for personal recreational use is illegal but some state legislators have said that they hope to introduce legislation that would allow individuals to grow small numbers of plants.

The black market is still alive and well,Pipkin said. And I dont think it is going to go away any time soon.

Licensed Production

The Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB), now named the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, has written the rule that, in the words of Initiative 502, takes marijuana out of the hands of illegal drug organizations and brings it under a tightly regulated, state-licensed system similar to that for controlling hard alcohol.

In December 2013, a 30-day window opened to apply for growing and processing licenses. No further applications are available. According to the WSLCB website, more than 19,000 applications were received. To date, about 700 licenses have been issued. All others are pending. Six applications came from the Key Peninsula and one has been approved.

Chelsea Luke Brown, who with four other partners, owns Bud Brothers in Oak Harbor, described how their business became operational. The partners had a combination of backgrounds including tech, marketing, customer service and experience with growing medical marijuana.

After a few false starts in locating a site, they found a warehouse owner on Whidbey Island interested in leasing to marijuana growers. Once the warehouse was identified, it took nearly a year to demolish and rebuild the interior space. They planted their first crop in February 2015 and harvested about three months later.

Brown describes cultivation as an art. She emphasized the importance of appreciation for the quality of what they grow. The planting, feeding, trimming and timing of the harvest are done with great care.

State oversight is substantial. Producers can bring in their own stock within 15 days of receiving a license but then they can buy plants or seeds only from licensed growers. All plants must be tagged individually. Every lot must be tested for quality, including THC level (how strength is assessed). There are strict parameters for security cameras.

Once the buds are harvested, they are cut, dried, trimmed and packaged. Many growers are also processors the plants are turned into resin or extracts. Retailers take it from there.

Six months after the first planting, Bud Brothers is sustainable the costs are now covered and the business has the capacity to more than double its harvest once the electrical system has been upgraded. Brown said that they were worried about how they would be received in Oak Harbor, a relatively conservative community.

We were very open about what we are doing, and we have been welcomed,she said. 

Sunday, 03 January 2016 00:13

Healthy Communities initiative takes off

The Key Peninsula is poised to be at the center of innovation and coordination in ways we have never seen. And at the core of that action is a remarkable couple, Ben and Susan Paganelli.

The Milgard Family Foundation awarded a grant through the Key Peninsula Community Council (KPC) this fall. Its purpose? To build an infrastructure that will help this community better serve our populations in need. In addition some funds are available to provide services that focus on hunger, transportation, and health and wellness.

We are excited to be working together to build on what is already a vibrant and healthy community,said Susan Paganelli. Our job is to create a long-term plan based on the desires of the community, and to harness the existing strengths in a way that has not been done before.

The couple, who recently established a consulting firm in Gig Harbor, is perfectly suited to lead the project.

They met during college, Susan with a background in education and Ben in international relations. Ben served in the U.S. Air Force and when his career took him overseas, Susan gave up her teaching to raise their three children. She also gained valuable experience as she immersed herself in volunteer work, with schools and international groups.

Bens work with the Air Force was initially in operations, but then shifted to strategic planning, including rebuilding Afghanistan.

After 22 years with the Air Force, the couple decided it was time to leave the military and join forces in a business together. We had served our country,Susan said. Now we wanted to serve our community, but in a way that gave us a chance to put down roots. We wanted to let our kids get settled, not to move again.

The first step was an advanced degree in international human rights for Susan while Ben taught at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. The next few years were busy. Susan was raised in the Pacific Northwest and Ben, originally from upstate New York, had come to love the area. In 2010 they found the house of their dreams in Gig Harbor, remodeled, settled their children in school, Susan completed her internship and they started their consulting business, VIA Unlimited.

Both Susan and Ben taught at Harbor Institute, part of TCC. It was through connections there that they heard about the Milgard grant and decided to apply for the position of director.

Our work has been in capacity development,said Ben. That involves seeing what a community has, what they want and then creating a plan of action to get there.

We take an asset-based approach. We have already seen some great strengths and we expect there is more we dont know about yet. This is an incredibly diverse community, and we are in an information gathering stage now, he said.

They have met with many community leaders and the Key Peninsula Business Association, and have attended community events to gather information and simply to listen. They are impressed with the energy and passion for service that so many people on the Key Peninsula have demonstrated. But they commented those people have their hands full with their current commitments.

It takes time and energy to bring cohesion to all of the good work that is done in this community, said Susan. People just cant add one more thing to their plates.

And that is exactly where the Paganellis come in.

Interested in sharing your ideas? They have just set up an email, and they welcome your input. You can reach them at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. There will be regular updates through the KP News and a website.