Three decades is an impressive length to stay at the same job, and it is especially remarkable when that job involves enriching the lives of those within the community.

Bruce Tabb recently retired after 31 years as the executive director of Elmview, a local organization that offers services to community members with developmental disabilities.

“I think it was just time realistically,” he said. “Thirty years is a run. I’m at a point in my life where I’m ready to have another challenge and hand it off and know that I’m handing off an organization that has good people internally, both staff and the folks we provide services to.”

PATH TO THE POSITION

Tabb came to Ellensburg in 1988 to assume the position at Elmview. Having a growing family, he said he was drawn to the region because of the location of Central Washington University, as well as the proximity to the West Side.

“From a personal standpoint, that was a motivating factor,” he said. “At that time, I was offered the position at Elmview.”

After spending three years each at similar jobs in Pendleton and Coos Bay, Oregon, Tabb said the Elmview board of directors’ first comment to him during his interview was that he seemed to hop around a lot between jobs.

“It was like in my head, I’ve been at two jobs for three years each,” he said. “I felt like I was doing well. We were in that little room in the back of the Palace, and that was literally the first question I had to field.”

There would be no more hopping. Tabb settled in and took the reins of the position, and he said Ellensburg was a great fit for his family. Coming from Pendleton, he said they had grown to enjoy a rural lifestyle.

“That piece worked well for my kids,” he said. “They were connected to 4-H for years.”

Along with the quality of living, Tabb said the position at Elmview proved to be the right fit for his skill set, providing the foundation for success during his 31 years on the job.

“There was always the opportunity to keep it fresh,” he said. “We were able to grow the organization, and we were able to meet the needs of the community by growing. The board gave me the latitude to explore different options.”

FOCUS ON SUCCESS

During his tenure at Elmview, Tabb worked with the organization to explore different avenues towards success. One example was the operation of a recycling center, which was located near Bowers Field. Tabb said the organization hoped it would be a revenue generator, while at the same time providing quality jobs in an industrial setting. The organization also provides services in Chelan and Douglas counties, and Tabb said they briefly operated a coffee shop in the area.

“What I learned from things like recycling and coffee is that you stick to what you know how to do,” he said. “We know how to support individuals with disabilities to be employed, to learn skills, to get training.”

Tabb said making the decision to move away from business operation has given the organization the ability to place a focus on its core mission, forging ahead and expanding on services offered to the region.

“Our residential program has been able to grow,” he said. “We provide services in Yakima. We started a school program in Yakima, working with the district there. In the last three or four years, we started a respite program for families who have a member with a developmental disability. Rather than the family moving or going into crisis, they can actually have respite, take a deep breath.”

While focusing on the core mission, Tabb said the key to success over the years has always been to take a step back and analyze the functions of the organization.

“During all that time, there’s always been an opportunity to say who are we as an agency,” he said. “But at the same time, what are the community needs and how do we meet them, and if we can how do we develop that capacity. That part has always kept it exciting.”

Looking back, Tabb said some of his favorite moments with the organization include the community’s support in the operation of a group home for almost 30 years, as well as the continued development of successful job placement services, but that the forward progression of the organization’s mission as a whole is the most important achievement in his eyes.

“The thing that really keeps you going is that the core of the agency, the core of who we are and what we do always focuses on the individuals for whom we are providing service,” he said. “When you have that context, then there’s not one specific accomplishment you feel is incredible. The core of it is that the conversation internally is always how do we do this better and how do we make it work for these people. To me, that’s the accomplishment. The accomplishment is over 30 years, I feel like we’ve stayed true to that core value of recognizing people and the support they need to be where they want to be.”

LOOKING AHEAD

Tabb was recently elected to his second consecutive term as mayor by the Ellensburg City Council, his fourth term as mayor in total. Although he has more time to focus on the position now that he has retired from Elmview, he said the strength of the city staff has put the operational structure of the council in great shape.

“I don’t see that anyone on council, myself as mayor or council members need to be actively engaged in overseeing or injecting ourselves into the operation of the city,” he said. “We’ve got good, dedicated, competent people.”

Tabb said he does plan to become more involved in policy issues, working more on advocacy towards legislative actions. Aside from his council responsibilities, he is looking into providing his skills towards volunteer consulting for nonprofit organizations, as well as taking some time to enjoy his version of retirement.

“I’m sleeping more at night,” he said. “That’s a good thing.”

Comments

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.