In a unanimous vote Tuesday, the Richland Public Facilities District Board offered longtime Tri-City businesswoman and education advocate Lisa Toomey a position as its interim CEO.
Toomey would fill the job recently vacated by Kimberly Camp after four years developing the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center -- district's signature project.
"As many of you know, we have done quite an extensive search for an interim CEO," board President Joel Rogo said. "Some of the things we were looking for were someone well known in community, someone with fundraising experience and someone who can bring passion and energy to the program that we all share. I believe we have found that person."
The district offered her a base salary of $75,000 a year, plus incentives for meeting particular goals set by the board, Rogo said.
Camp was earning about $150,000 a year at the time she left.
The district announced in late October that Camp would leave at the end of 2011, with a severance package that included a payment of $125,000 among various other terms.
During the two-month search, board members said they preferred to hire someone local with the kind of community knowledge that could revitalize the project after some public hiccups, including a two-year delay as museum advocates learned they couldn't build at their first choice for a site, and questions raised by Richland City Council members about the project's viability.
Toomey told the Herald that she is ready for the challenge.
"It's a really ambitious project, and we have a lot of work to do," she said. "The first thing I've done is make lists, lots of lists -- primarily to get my arms around the project."
Toomey said she plans to get out and talk to people in the community -- particularly people who were involved in the project in its early stages but have drifted away -- to remind them what the interpretive center is about and why it's important.
"I think we've lost sight of the fact that the Hanford Reach is a national treasure," she said. "That's the story. That's the story we have to start telling again to help folks who were involved and for whatever reason moved on to something else to have the chance to become invested again."
A self-proclaimed "history buff," Toomey said she looks forward to diving into developing the center, which will tell the stories of local history, including the history of native tribes and the Hanford site's role in the Manhattan Project and the Cold War, as well of the area's geology, flora and fauna.
She said she recently took a boat trip up the Columbia River to White Bluffs and was struck by the perspective she gained from viewing the area from the river.
"It's about the story of the Columbia River, and it's the river that binds us together," she said of the interpretive center.
But she also recognizes the project faces a significant fundraising challenge. The facilities district has about $27 million left to raise of the $40 million needed not only for construction and exhibits for the Reach museum, but for operational expenses for the next few years and a $2 million endowment fund to help support the center in the future.
"At the heart of it that's the job -- getting this building built," she said.
Toomey has worked for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Education Service District 123, has managed the Washington State Wine Expo and owned a consulting business.
Most recently, she worked for almost six years at Columbia Basin College developing the college's agriculture program, which involved raising more than $1 million from private sources to establish the program.
She also has been involved with Olive Crest, a nonprofit that serves foster children and foster families. She is married to Port of Pasco Executive Director Jim Toomey.
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org