NEWSMAKERS March|April 2018: People in Whatcom County


WCC chemistry faculty member Dr. Tommaso Vannelli (left) and instruction classroom support technician Mark Price, with the Chemco donation.

Local businesses donate nearly $45k to Whatcom’s STEM programs

Three major Whatcom County businesses have donated a total of $44,000 in money and goods to Whatcom Community College’s growing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs.

Chemco donated more than $31,000 in equipment for the chemistry lab, along with a differential scanning calorimeter that analyzes complex mixtures, from pesticides to vitamins. The Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery and the Tulalip Tribes Charitable Fund donated $10,000 and $3,000, respectively, to purchase software for the lab.

STEM students are deemed more likely to continue their studies when they have access to hands-on, authentic laboratory experiences. More than 170 students will benefit annually from these donations. The need for more qualified workers with these technical skills was identified as a major challenge in the Jan./Feb. edition of Business Pulse.

Lynden handles critical samples for Ebola vaccine

Phil Maxson, Lynden International’s Director of International Operations.

Phil Maxson recently returned from the EBOVAC-Salone Labs at Kambia District Hospital in West Africa. That’s where Lynden’s customer, Clinical RM, is working on a clinical trial of Ebola vaccine in Sierra Leone. Ebola is a rare and deadly disease caused by infection with one of the Ebola virus species.

Lynden International has been assisting government and non-government organizations with transportation and logistics in West Africa since the Ebola crisis in 2014. “This particular project involves Lynden transporting human blood samples from the clinical trial to the U.S. and Europe for testing,” explains Phil, Lynden International’s Director of International Operations.

Due to the difficulty in keeping the samples frozen and stable during the long transport back to the U.S., Lynden is using Liquid Nitrogen Dry (LN2) shipping containers to maintain a temperature of minus 150C for up to 10 days. The containers are more commonly known as ‘dewars.’

“Each LN2 Shipper can accommodate up to 405 2ml vials, and is equipped with a GPS-temperature sensor so at any time, (except when on an aircraft in the air), we can monitor the temperature and see exactly where the unit is anywhere in the world,” Phil says. “First we ship the charged, but empty containers into Sierra Leone and then deliver them to the laboratory which is about three and a half hours from Freetown, Sierra Leon’s capital city.”

Once the lab has loaded all the samples into the special canister containers (see photo at right), Lynden handles the shipping of the units to various labs located in the U.S. and Europe.

Lynden International handles the transportation of over 400 shipments per year into and out of Africa for various organizations; many of these are temperature-controlled products requiring specialized handling.

Two score newly elected have taken office

At the start of the year, 20 newly elected officials were sworn into public offices throughout Whatcom County, including two new faces on both the County Council and the Bellingham Port Commission.

Election races in November 2017 changed nothing on the Bellingham City Council, as all incumbents won. But redrawn voting districts and three vacancies created rearranged positions on the Whatcom County Council, with incumbents Rud Browne, Todd Donovan, and Barry Buchanan moving to different district seats, while Ken Mann and Carl Weimer did not run for reelection

The new faces joining the county council were Tyler Byrd, by election and new to public office, and Timothy Ballew, by council appointment to fill an unfinished term through 2018 (Satpal Sidhu resigned). Byrd owns Red Rokk Interactive, a digital marketing firm, and commercial fisherman Ballew was immediate past chair of the Lummi Indian Business Council (LIBC).


Ken Bell and Michael Shepard were sworn in as the Port of Bellingham’s newest Commissioners. Bell previously served on the Whatcom County Charter Review Commission and the Whatcom County Planning Commission. Shepard is new to public office.

Shepard is a Research Associate at Western Washington University’s Center for Pacific Northwest Studies and teaches graduate and undergraduate eLearning classes at Goucher College, located in Baltimore, Maryland.

Bell is the President/CEO of Best Recycling, a waste-management company known for its ability to work in very remote locations, like the Yukon Territory, Alaska, Antarctica, Greenland, and the Aleutian Islands.


Jeremiah (Jay) Julius was selected as the new Chair of the Lummi Indian Business Council, the Lummi Nation’s governing body, which also chose Travis Brockie as Vice Chair. Others elected to seats on the LIBC were: Celina Phair (Treasurer), Cheryl Sanders, and Fred Lane.


One of the most notable elections in the county put newcomer Kyle Christensen into the mayor’s office in Sumas, winning against the incumbent of the previous 16 years, Bob Bromley. One other new mayor emerged from the balloting—Harry Robinson in Blaine—unseating Mayor Pro Tem Paul Greenough.

Several districts and wards elected new council officials in other county cities:

Blaine—Eric Davidson, Alicia Rulenon.

Everson—Jolene Pratt, Matthew Goering.

Ferndale—Kate Hansen, Cathy Watson.

Lynden—Mark Wohlrab, Kyle Strengholt

People on the Move…

KeyBank has named Gloria Nemechek a Senior Vice President and Senior Relationship Manager in its Commercial Banking Division. She will work with middle-market business clients in Whatcom, Skagit and Islands Counties.

Her role is to understand clients’ industries, businesses and goals in order to provide value-added strategic ideas and capital to help them grow. She has spent much of her career in commercial banking, serving large corporate and international businesses, as well as those in the middle market, in multiple metropolitan and global markets, including London, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

With more than 25 years in the banking industry, Gloria has held leadership sales and lending positions at major financial institutions, including Wells Fargo Bank, U.S. Bank, Security Pacific Bank and Bank of America.

“We are delighted to welcome someone with Gloria’s expertise and business acumen. Her client-centered focus will complement our team approach that ensures seamless delivery of best-in-class products and services,” said KeyBank’s Washington Commercial Banking Leader Sean Foley.

Erin Divine has been promoted to Director of Sales at Four Points by Sheraton Bellingham Hotel & Conference Center.

Divine’s nine years of sales experience includes five at Four Points Bellingham. She returned to the hotel last year upon completion of its multimillion-dollar renovation, which culminated with launch of the B-Town Kitchen & Raw Bar.

Four Points General Manager John Burns said Divine’s experience and local relationships benefit the entire community. “Erin has worked all the markets during her five years with us. Her knowledge of the hotel and the community makes her the ideal person to lead our sales efforts.”

Divine said, “With 14,000 square feet of flexible meeting space and a ballroom that can accommodate up to 500 people, we can assist a wide range of clients on everything from small-group meetings to large banquets.”

Four Points Bellingham is managed by Providence Hospitality Partners and is located at 714 Lakeway Drive, just off Interstate 5 at Exit 253. For information, call 360.671.1011 or visit

The Muljat Group has added three real-estate brokers to its team—Trish Gale, Diva Menke and Heather Simpson.

Gale is a 12-year resident of Bellingham. She has nearly four years of experience as a broker and soon will be a licensed managing broker and is working toward a diversity certification.

“After years in sales and services, I know how to negotiate on the behalf of clients while balancing the emotions that come along with buying and selling homes,” Gale said. “My ability to build relationships keeps them central to the process by setting clear expectations and doing what I say I’m going to do.”

Menke is a graduate of Western Washington University and has recorded $2 million in sales in just 18 months as a broker. She’s also a local musician and 13-year Whatcom County resident.

“It’s my belief that buying and selling should be a fun process where the client feels empowered,” Menke said. “I’m available day and night and work hard for them, with integrity and open communication.”

Simpson also is a Bellingham native and has 12 years of real-estate experience in Whatcom County. The Squalicum High School graduate was CEO of another Bellingham real-estate agency before joining The Muljat Group.

“My experience, combined with local knowledge, helps buyers and sellers experience a smooth and positive transaction process,” Simpson said. “I’m involved with many community-centered projects and children’s activities and my mission is to empower women in leadership.”

The Muljat Group is located at 510 Lakeway Drive and is online at You can contact Gale at 360.296.2667, Menke at 360.920.6456, and Simpson at 360.393.9075.

Thomas Boucher has joined North Coast Credit Union as the Community Development Officer. Most recently, he served as Community Liaison for Congressman Rick Larsen.

Boucher will serve on nonprofit boards, be involved with community outreach, and advocate with local, state, and national government policy makers on behalf of North Coast and the credit union industry. Some of the issues he will be working on include easing restrictions on member business lending and safeguarding the industry with regard to housing refinance reform.

Marilyn Brank, North Coast President, said, “Thomas’ extensive knowledge of federal and state government and his desire to be a positive influence in our communities makes him the perfect fit for this very important position.”



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