McGibbon, Vehrs, honored for years of community service

By By Joe McIalwain, ECA Executive Director | Jul 11, 2013
John McGibbon, Joe McIalwain, former mayor Gary Hawkinson, Terry Vehrs, Kay Mahaffey, and Jan Conner cut ribbon at the ECA opening.

Twelve years ago, the Edmonds City Council appointed five people to the Board of the newly formed Edmonds Public Facilities District.

The purpose of the District was to construct and operate a “regional center,” such as a convention, conference or special events center, within the boundaries of the City of Edmonds, to serve the Puget Sound region and to attract tourism and generate economic activity for the local community.

Two of the five original members of the Edmonds Public Facilities (PFD) Board, John McGibbon and Terry Vehrs, have recently reached the end of their third and final term of service and are retired from the PFD Board effective June 30, 2013.

What they and their colleagues have accomplished in that time span is nothing short of extraordinary.

Through their efforts, the original Edmonds High School campus was preserved and transformed into what we now know as Edmonds Center for the Arts.  Edmonds Center for the Arts (ECA) is in its seventh year of operation.

Under the leadership of McGibbon and Vehrs, the only individuals who have served as PFD President to date, the Center was established, and it has flourished.

They will be honored on July 16 at 5 p.m., at a public reception at ECA, and at the Edmonds City Council meeting later that evening.

Over 60,000 people attend events at Edmonds Center for the Arts annually.

ECA is best known for its annual Presenting Season of 25 high quality performing artists from around the world, and for serving as a home for Edmonds’ own arts institutions: Cascade Symphony Orchestra, Olympic Ballet Theatre, and Sno-King Community Chorale.  In addition, there are many more events that take place at ECA each year including the three-day Friends of Frank DeMiero Jazz Festival, several full-day Sno-King Music Educators festivals, and a series of Rick Steves’ Europe through the Back Door travel festivals.

The Center also serves as a home for Community Christian Fellowship church every Sunday morning, and Stella Maris Academy Catholic School.

Its gymnasium is filled regularly with practices, games and training programs led by Sno-King Youth Club, Brighton School, and many others.

Edmonds Community College celebrates its Convocation each September at ECA, as well as its annual EdCC International Night celebrating the cultures and talents of its international students.

But ECA’s long list of events and programs doesn’t stop there.  The Center hosts events each year by Seattle’s Rainbow City Band, Terrace Park PTA’s Comedy Night, Kirkland’s StoryBook Theatre, Morningstar Korean Cultural Center, presentations of Russian artists by promoter Vladimir Chernov, and even hair dressing and body building competitions!

And in addition, thousands of students have attended matinee presentations of theatre, music and other arts disciplines, and ECA has also partnered with local schools to bring performing artists into their gymnasiums, cafeterias and classrooms for lecture-demonstrations and residencies.

ECA has become a gathering place where the community can find great entertainment, yes, but it has also served as a place where we can learn, celebrate, exchange ideas, and sometimes mourn together.

ECA hosted a special event to help support Edmonds City Council Member Peggy Pritchard Olson during her battle against ALS, as well as the memorial service for fallen Edmonds Fire Fighter, Arthur DeLisle.

Like the Frances Anderson Center, Yost Pool, our beautiful City parks and many other public gathering places, Edmonds Center for the Arts, in its short lifespan, has quickly become a community cornerstone for the citizens of Edmonds and for visitors from around the region.  This would not have been possible if it were not for a small group of committed, visionary volunteers led by John McGibbon and Terry Vehrs.

McGibbon, himself a graduate of Edmonds High School (1953) when it was still housed on the original campus, and the son of Former Edmonds Mayor Paul McGibbon (1949-1955), has called the City of Edmonds home his entire life.  He and his wife, Anona, live on Main St. just up the hill from Frances Anderson Center.

For McGibbon, the opportunity to play a role in preserving a major portion of the original Edmonds High School property and facilities for future generations to enjoy was a dream come true.

“When Puget Sound Christian College announced that they would sell the property, and our Board was presented with the opportunity to purchase and restore it, I knew we had found the right project,” McGibbon said.  “My Father taught there, my sister, Mary, and I went to school there, and I knew how much the history of the place meant to the City.

“When the history was matched with the demand for a quality performance venue for our local arts groups, saving the buildings and developing the new arts center seemed a worthy path to pursue.”

Vehrs also grew up in Edmonds and now lives in Woodway with his wife, Lara, and their children Lauren, Jonathan and Hanna.

Vehrs’ interest in the PFD Board and in the project stemmed from his personal passion for the arts, and his strong interest in the City’s economic growth and stability.

He began his service to the community at the age of 14, when he volunteered to help with the Edmonds Arts Festival.

His commitment to the Festival expanded over the years as he ultimately became the Festival’s Director, and finally it’s President.

In 1988, Vehrs was appointed to the Edmonds Arts Festival Foundation Board and he remains a member to this day.

It was the prospect of bringing new people and new business to Edmonds that first attracted him to pursue a position on the Edmonds PFD Board.

As the arts-focused effort evolved, Vehrs’ excitement and commitment only grew.

“It was the perfect combination as far as I was concerned,” Vehrs said.  “I had been a part of the arts community for years, and this gave us all a chance to strengthen that community, to improve our quality of life and to draw people from all over the region to Edmonds to attend events, eat at our local restaurants, spend the night at our local hotel and really make a difference.

“I’m proud to say that I think ECA has done all of those things, and more.”

It is a bittersweet moment for both McGibbon and Vehrs.  As they adjust to the idea of moving away from their leadership roles in the organization, they also find themselves with a little more time to place into their other community interests.

“I couldn’t venture to guess how many hours we have spent in meetings, strategy sessions, receptions and special events, McGibbon said.  “Suffice it to say, we have each invested hundreds of hours over the years.

“But I can tell you that the investment was worthwhile.  I plan to keep coming to shows at ECA and enjoying what we have accomplished.”

“This is a solemn, but exciting time for us,” Bob Rinehart, the newly-elected President of the Public Facilities District Board said. “The PFD Board, along with the incredible group of people that serve on the Edmonds Center for the Arts not-for-profit Board, will continue to work together to preserve the Center and improve its programs and services.

“We have a great team.  We will always honor and appreciate the work of so many over the years, but especially John and Terry.  They worked miracles to help get us here.”

Edmonds Public Facilities District / Edmonds Center for the Arts recently completed a comprehensive Strategic Business Plan that will guide the Center through its next 3 to 5–year period.

The plan was completed in the final months of their tenures and under the skillful watch of Vehrs and McGibbon.

As they depart, they leave ECA with a balanced operating budget and an excellent reputation for high-quality and affordable entertainment in a state-of-the-art venue.

There will be a reception held for Vehrs and McGibbon on Tuesday, July 16 beginning at 5 p.m., in the ECA Lobby.  The reception is open to the public but RSVPs are requested, which can be sent to Executive Director, Joe McIalwain, via email at

McGibbon and Vehrs will also be honored at the Edmonds City Council Meeting on Tuesday, July 16 beginning at 7 p.m., in City Council Chambers.

All are welcome to attend the meeting or tune in on Channel 21.





John and Anona McGibbon at ECA opening
Terry Vehrs at ECA opening
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