- Business Leader of the Year: Rob Birman, Executive Director, Centrum
- Citizen of the Year: Ariel Speser, WA State Attorney General’s Office
- Rising Entrepreneur: Brent & Wendy Davis, Lila’s Kitchen and Brent Davis Construction
- Young Professional of the Year: Dr. Allison Berry, Jefferson & Clallam County Public Health Officer
- Future Business Leader: Akira Anderson, Chimacum High School
The Chamber is honored to once again produce these awards for Jefferson County. We thank the nominators who brought this highly qualified group of citizens to the community's attention. Their nominations not only acknowledge their commitment and service but also the hundreds of people at the businesses and organizations who as a team were diligent contributors to their missions and our quality of life in Jefferson County.
Business Leader of the Year: Rob Birman
Robert Birman is in his tenth year as chief executive of Centrum, one of the largest multi-disciplinary arts organizations in the state of Washington. Prior to relocating to Port Townsend, he managed symphony orchestras for 25 years from Boston to Santa Barbara, San Francisco to Louisville, and parts in between. As administrative leader of Centrum, Rob has led significant change and expanded the organization’s strategic and programming partnerships.
Since 2013, Centrum has added 12 new program weeks, eliminated $400,000 in debt, remained profitable for each of the last six years, and enjoyed a 50% increase in workshop revenues from 2012 to 2019 (last full year of programming). Centrum doubled its annual individual giving (dollars) since 2012 and has built a cash reserve of three-months of operating capital. Rob has helped increase Centrum’s endowment fund nearly 600% and added $1 million in capital purchases (all fully-funded), including a five-vehicle van fleet, new concert staging, LED lighting in its theaters that yield a 90% reduction in energy consumption, and—most recently—the creation of a year-round broadcast ability that will integrate online learning as a permanent part of what Centrum offers. Centrum serves artists from age 4 to 98 from 17 countries, all 50 states, and 77% of the counties in Washington. 79% of the charity’s contributed revenue comes from outside of Jefferson County.
Birman credits the organization’s success, in large measure, to its 49-year legacy serving Jefferson County, the fact that Centrum never compromises on artistic excellence, and that—for 49 years—our community has made the arts a core characteristic of its civic identity. A regional board of 20 members, staff of twenty-two, 200 volunteers, and more than 10,000 supporters (workshop participants, ticket buyers, and donors) helps propel Centrum into its 50th year, starting in 2023.
Citizen of the Year: Ariel Speser
Ariel Speser works as an Assistant Attorney General representing the State of Washington in Jefferson and Clallam Counties. The majority of Ariel’s legal work involves the protection of vulnerable children from abuse and neglect. Before joining the Attorney General’s Office, Ariel was an attorney at Northwest Justice Project, where she represented low-income individuals and families in civil legal matters including domestic violence protection orders, preventing eviction and foreclosure, and consumer protection. Ariel has served for many years on the Board of Directors for Clallam Jefferson Pro Bono Lawyers and is a past president of the organization. Ariel regularly takes on pro bono family law and eviction cases and helps organize free legal community education events for the public. Ariel’s advocacy was instrumental in helping implement new tenant protections and Know Your Rights events in Jefferson County during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the years, Ariel has assisted countless Jefferson County residents meaningfully access the justice system to ensure their basic needs, housing, and safety. Ariel has earned the respect of her colleagues and adversaries alike for being professional and hardworking; a true advocate for social justice.
Ariel also recently completed a term on Port Townsend’s City Council, where she was actively involved with several inter-governmental committees and boards. As a City Councilmember, Ariel is most proud of her work with public safety, helping to secure funding for Port Townsend’s full-time Navigator—an evidenced-based alternative to police that provides real-time de-escalation for people experiencing mental health crisis. Ariel also represented the City of Port Townsend on the Intergovernmental Coordinating Committee, which developed and implemented a community-led collaborative process for allocating COVID-19 state and federal relief funds in Jefferson County.
Ariel recently completed her long-standing service on the Habitat for Humanity of East Jefferson County’s Board of Directors where she helped advance policy and advocacy to support permanent affordable housing for local residents. Ariel currently serves on the Clallam Jefferson Long-Term Care Ombuds Advisory Council and is the Washington Women Lawyers State Board representative for the Olympic Peninsula Chapter. Ariel lives in Port Townsend with her husband, Nat Jacob, their two beautiful girls (2.5 years-old and 8 months), and their terrier. Ariel grew up in Port Townsend and feels incredibly grateful to be from this community and able to give back in so many ways. Anyone who knows Ariel can attest to her sincerity, kindness, and true love for this community.
Rising Entrepreneurs: Brent & Wendy Davis
Together, in 2020, Brent and Wendy Davis opened Lila’s Kitchen, a commercial kitchen and shared restaurant space/food hall in the Upper Sims Way, Rainier St. corridor of Port Townsend. They intended to open a facility for caterers, but as their launch coincided with the early pandemic months, they decided to pivot and offer space to other vendors to prepare their goods. As so many restaurateurs found the need to shift their means of reaching customers at that time, the offering was a lifesaver. Customers were able to pick up takeout or stay and dine under a large red canopy in safety. Some owners and employees who had lost their jobs during the pandemic are now thriving. Three new businesses were created on the site, four changed their model to continue running, and one business opened a brick-and-mortar location after a practice year. The kitchen still offers start-ups the chance to experiment, incubate their business, and to grow beside a group of established, passionate food business owners. For Brent, Lila’s Kitchen fulfills a lifelong passion for cooking, and for Wendy, it allows her to lean both on her hospitality experience and her work in public service. Based on the success of their model, they’ve designed a dedicated walk-up location adjacent to their original site, which includes areas for visiting food trucks, outdoor gatherings, and family games. They will soon be offering a converted horse trailer as a mobile for-hire bar to book for private events.
Brent Davis is the owner of Brent Davis Construction in Port Townsend. He has worked in the building and design industry since his high school years in Connecticut, after discovering his passion for architecture and carpentry. With the heart of a craftsman, Brent has worked as a carpenter in the Monterey Bay area on projects ranging from complex remodels to total custom homes, as a draftsman for a furniture design and pro-duction company in Santa Cruz, CA, with Ernie Baird Boat Co., and with Visscher Associates Pipe Organ Builders. He opened Brent Davis Construction in 2010 and in 2018 was voted Best Homebuilder by The Leader and in 2021 was voted Best General Contractor in Jefferson County. Brent earned an Associate Degree in Computer Animated Design, specializing in Residential Architecture at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. He attended the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building, graduating in 1997.
Wendy Davis has a decades-long career in the hospitality industry working in many roles, from server, to manager, and owner. With an interest in becoming more community-involved, Wendy worked as legal assistant in the Jefferson County Prosecutor’s Office. Then, in 2016 she became the first Community Service Officer with the Port Townsend Police Department, serving as a forensic child interviewer, in animal control, and in public safety for events. During the early months of COVID Wendy helped the Department of Emergency Management at the incident command center and worked to secure permitting for Port Townsend “streateries” to allow restaurants to serve customers outdoors. Wendy is the Vice-President and a five-year board member of Jumping Mouse Children’s Center and Board Treasurer of the newly formed Fort Worden Hospitality. Wendy attended Washington State University, studying Psychology and Sociology, and the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission Reserve Academy, followed by the full-time Academy.
Young Professional of the Year: Dr. Allison Berry
Dr. Allison Berry has served as the Jefferson County Health Officer since August of 2021 and as the Clallam County Health Officer since 2018. In her dual role, she has been responsible for shepherding both counties through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Berry received her Medical Doctorate and Masters of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University and completed her residency in family medicine at Harborview Medical Center.
A native of Tacoma, Dr. Berry has dedicated her life to the protection and empowerment of the vulnerable and marginalized. She continues as our health officer, working with her small and dedicated public health team to assure that all Jefferson County residents have access to the tools they need to live safe and healthy lives.
Future Business Leader: Akira Anderson
Hello, my name is Akira Anderson! I am a senior at Chimacum High School, and I also do Running Start with Olympic College. I chose to do Running Start because I was so eager to start studying psychology. My career plan is to become a psychiatrist because I believe one of the most fulfilling things in my life is helping and guiding others. From an early age, I enjoyed taking the reins and helping others. One of my long-standing leadership roles is being captain for my high school and club volleyball teams. Volleyball is one of my biggest passions in life, and I am proud to say that I committed to playing college volleyball at the University of Puget Sound.
Although I will be an incoming freshman, I am excited to help others around me. Other leadership roles that I love consist of being group leader for big projects, Cispus counselor for middle-school field trips, manager for sports teams, tutoring my younger brothers, and many other things.
Outside of leadership roles, I also have many other hobbies. I enjoy art of any form, journaling, reading, listening to music, and spending time with family and friends. Thank you so much for this opportunity. I am honored to represent the community through my endeavors.