Clay Eals, first-ever Southwest Seattle Historical Society executive director, announces he’s leaving

He’s the man who literally wrote the book on West Seattle history, and for the past 4+ years, he has been the main cheerleader for appreciating, stewarding, celebrating, exploring, and recording it. Today,Clay Eals has announced he’ll be making way for someone else – not yet hired – to lead the Southwest Seattle Historical Society. Here’s the news release:

The Southwest Seattle Historical Society soon will seek a new executive director to succeed heritage advocate Clay Eals, who has resigned after four-and-a-quarter years in the position.

In a letter to the organization’s board, Eals wrote that his decision to step down stems from “a desire to spend more time focusing on other aspects of my life.”

His departure will be effective in mid-July. The board plans to begin advertising for the full-time position later this month and hopes to fill the position in time for the successor to overlap with Eals, who has been involved with the historical society since its founding in 1984.

Eals became the historical society’s first executive director in January 2013. He expressed gratitude for the opportunity, adding that he is confident that the organization’s mission, track record and board leadership will result in continued organizational success.

The author, historian and ex-journalist wrote in his resignation letter that the timing of the transition would be “as good as it gets” for the organization.

“We just finished a huge phase of our Junction landmark campaign, and between now and mid-July several manageable events (including the Sea View Hall home tour) can be pulled off while attention is devoted to a hiring process,” he wrote. “Most important is that there is enough time to get a new executive director on board to become immersed in the planning and execution of our 2017 Champagne Gala Brunch.”

As executive director, Eals has seen himself as a pied piper, bringing together members, volunteers, donors, sponsors and community leaders to achieve and monitor landmark status for iconic buildings, assemble Group Hug photo events featuring school children and others at key sites, champion programs and collections of the organization’s “Birthplace of Seattle” Log House Museum, deepen relations with the Duwamish Tribe, create and sustain two monthly speaker series, revive the historical society’s annual “If These Walls Could Talk” home tours, broaden the organization’s visibility, and deepen its financial viability.

Primary responsibilities of the position are fundraising, outreach, volunteer recruitment, staff supervision and overall management. In addition to the full-time position of executive director, the historical society has two paid part-time staff positions of curator and museum operations coordinator.

“We will so miss Clay in his departure from our organization,” says Karen Sisson, who became board president of the historical society in January.

“We have appreciated the guidance Clay has shown us,” she says. “Clay has left us in such a better place than when he came to the organization, so now we are able to take what he has given us, build on that solid ground and reach for the stars! We wish him well with his ventures and will welcome his involvement with us in the future as a seasoned volunteer.”

For more information on the search for a new executive director, please contact Karen Sisson at 206-579-0126 or

(Photo credit: Joanne Murray)

7 Replies to "Clay Eals, first-ever Southwest Seattle Historical Society executive director, announces he's leaving"

  • Jen April 19, 2017 (1:14 pm)

    You will be missed Clay! You have done a fantastic job and I don’t think I’ve seen anyone more enthusiastic and “all in” the cause as you. Best of luck for wherever life takes you next.

  • Kathy April 19, 2017 (2:32 pm)

    Clay took a tiny organization with huge potential and turned it into the heart and soul of West Seattle.  I hope he will stay involved.  He showed us how this organization can play a pivotal role in preserving the essence that we all love about West Seattle.  Best of wishes for the steps ahead.

  • blbl April 19, 2017 (2:57 pm)

    Congratulations, Clay, on a job well done!  Good luck in your next endeavors!


  • mok April 20, 2017 (1:14 am)

    You will be missed Clay! It was a comfort knowing you were around doing your thing. You’ll always be welcome at the theater :)

  • Jackie April 20, 2017 (6:13 am)

    Thank you Clay for the wonderful job you’ve done!  Good luck on your next chapter.😊

  • Terry and Glen April 20, 2017 (4:10 pm)


    It is because of you that Glen and I came to value the history of this area the part that Seaview played in that history.  Your enthusiasm is never ending and  contagious and it makes people want to get involved. Thank you.

    Terry and Glen

    Seaview Hall

  • Tom April 20, 2017 (8:50 pm)

    Many thanks to all that you have done for the West Seattle community.

    As a lifelong Alki resident, I’ve seen numerous changes in the community,  some good,  and some not so good. The efforts that were put forth by you, and the wonderful people of West Seattle to gain landmark status for the Admiral Theater,  The Homestead, and more recently,  The Hamm and Campbell  buildings. And not to forget, advocating for the preservation of the murals in the Alaska Junction. 

    Many wishes to you Clay in the next stage of your life. May it be as celebrated as your time was as Executive director of the SWHS.

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