FISH executive director to step down March 31
March 15, 2011
By Warren Kagarise
Some details about salmon eluded Gestin Suttle in April 2003, as she settled in as the Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery executive director.
“I knew some basic things about salmon, but I would not have called myself an expert by any means,” she recalled. “There was a sharp learning curve for me.”
Now, eight years and countless coho later, Suttle is a sought-after source for salmon information.
“Every day, I learn something new,” she said.
Suttle plans to resign from the salmon-centric organization March 31. The former journalist and Sammamish resident accepted a position as a public relations coordinator for the local YWCA.
“While it is difficult to leave, I am confident that FISH will continue to prosper and will remain the treasure of Issaquah,” she said. “As I’ve said many times before, this community is so fortunate to have so many caring individuals willing to step up to maintain this important organization and hatchery. It’s been an absolute honor to be a part of this wonderful group.”
FISH conducts educational tours at the state-operated Issaquah Salmon Hatchery during fall salmon runs and the Salmon Days Festival. FISH members also assist in annual salmon-spawning activities and other programs.
Suttle served as a spokeswoman and advocate for the organization, and helped to secure government and corporate dollars to keep the group afloat in a tough economy. FISH steered through the recession to finish 2010 in the black, even as other nonprofit organizations in the area struggled.
“She’s worked really hard for FISH and to support the hatchery, to support the volunteers here and me, and worked for the community as well,” FISH Education Coordinator Celina Steiger said. “It’s going to be hard to see her go.”
Suttle joined FISH as executive director in April 2003 and soon became a sought-after source for information about the many projects related to the hatchery, including a program to boost the dwindling Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon population and efforts to save the Salmon in the Classroom program from state cuts.
Colleagues praised Suttle as a friendly and hands-on manager to staff members and the many docents plying the hatchery grounds during the fall months.
“We got along really well from the very beginning, so she’s become a friend as well,” Steiger said. “We have a great working relationship, but then I can also talk about other stuff with her. I think she understands what I need to do in my position and gives me the space to do that.”
The nonprofit organization has also launched a search for the part-time position.
Issaquah Mayor Ava Frisinger, the longtime FISH board president, said Suttle turned out to be a quick study.
“We know that we can’t replicate Gestin, but we’re looking for a good communicator and someone who is able to quite quickly absorb a lot of complex information about fish — fish biology, fish habitat and all those sorts of things that are very important to getting the Puget Sound chinook back in better shape,” she said.
Suttle is due to join the YWCA at a busy time for the organization. Families should start to settle in the under-construction YWCA Village in the Issaquah Highlands by late summer.
“I’m really thrilled about the work that they’re doing to empower women and end racism,” she said. “There’s a lot to be excited about, and they’re doing really important work. I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Cathy MacCaul, YWCA community affairs and public policy director, said Suttle had the right skills and connections for the public affairs post.
“We are thrilled to have Gestin join our organization,” she said. “Gestin has incredible skills and talents, as a journalist and also as a very active community member on the Eastside.”
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.