Seattle City (spot)Light: John “Mark” McGee

For the past seven years, Mark McGee has dished out happy smiles and full stomachs as cook at the Gorge Inn at City Light’s Skagit project. A retired Navy Air Traffic Controller, Mark was in the service for 22 years. In fact, it was his assignment to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island that made him want to stay in Washington state.

Today, Mark resides in Newhalem with his wife where they’ve lived since 2007. Together, they enjoy life in the mountains which consists of outdoor adventures like backpacking and car camping. They also share a great love for—you guessed it—cooking.

  John “Mark” McGee at the Gorge Inn

“I like exploring the back country. This area (Skagit) is a perfect jumping off point for that. As soon as you leave the trailhead, you’re pretty much on your own. My wife and I go out together. It’s fantastic,” said Mark. “I’ve hiked the Pacific Crest Trail from Highway 20 to Hart’s Pass which is just drop dead gorgeous. There’s a place up there called Snowy Lakes which is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. I still can’t believe it’s not a part of a national park. I also enjoy Panther Creek.”

“I’ve always cooked. My mom taught me. When I retired from the Navy, I enrolled at Skagit Valley College. I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I interviewed with the head of the culinary department and decided to change my major to culinary arts. My very first course was baking, and I had never baked a lick in my life. Baking is a science—in cooking you use recipes, but in baking you use formulas. I just fell in love with it and got my degree in culinary arts in hospitality management.”

“One recipe I learned from my mom was Maryland fried chicken. I still make it a couple times a year. My wife and I have fun cooking together. She makes a good gumbo. I love to cook Italian food like prawns Puttanesca or a nice Arrabiata sauce. In a way, cooking is like air traffic control in that there’s instant gratification. On the other hand, there’s also instant knowledge of making a mistake or knowing that someone hates your food. So, there’s instant feedback, good or bad, which I like.”

“I’m a classically French-trained chef. I’ve worked in fine dining, and I think when retirement comes, that I’d like a part-time job in a fine dining restaurant. That would be fun—to just focus on the food. The Herb Farm in Woodinville is a fantastic fine dining experience. Loulay is also excellent.”

“Here, we’re famous for the Dam Good Chicken Dinner. People love it. The menu’s been updated with a nice green salad and fresh green beans, but the chicken recipe is exactly the same. The recipe has to be from the 1930s—coming up on 100 years!”

“We especially like to take care of the line crews. They work hard…10, 12, sometimes 14 hours a day. The last thing they want to think about is cooking. They always support us. When the crews come up, they’re first in line and first in our hearts. We get to know them very well. They’re great folks. We’re like a family up here.”

“I’d also like to acknowledge my co-workers; Debbie Martin, Cindy Aldridge and Tara Benjamin. Without their support and help the Gorge Inn could not function as effectively it does. The Skagit cookhouses now and in the past, are not and could never be a one person show. It’s all about team effort.”

Thank you, Mark, for your service to our country and for all that you do to feed our appetites!

City Light Recognized by State Historic Preservation Officer Awards

 

Ross Lodge after the renovations.

The Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP) recently announced that Seattle City Light is one of the 11 recipients for the State Historic Preservation Officer’s Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Historic Preservation.

Seattle City Light was nominated for its rehabilitation of the Ross Lodge in the company town of Diablo, in eastern Whatcom County.  Before starting work on the historic Ross Lodge, Seattle City Light made sure that rehabilitation of the lodge would not damage sensitive archaeological resources in the project vicinity. The 75-year old dormitory has been repurposed as an executive conference center after having been abandoned for more than 20 years.

“We are thankful for the honor granted us by the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation. This recognition highlights Seattle City Light’s leadership in preservation work and demonstrates our efforts to make historic preservation a priority as the Nation’s Greenest Utility,” City Light Chief of Staff Sephir Hamilton said.

 

Ross Lodge before the renovations.

Other recent preservation efforts include rehabilitation on the Gorge Inn, the anchor building on old Main Street in Newhalem, part of the Skagit National Register Historic District. “The utility is embracing stewardship of their unique cultural resources in a bold and thoughtful manner. Our hats are off to Seattle City Light,” said Gretchen Luxenberg, a cultural resources specialist with the National Park Service.

“This is an incredible achievement by many people who worked tirelessly and had the vision, passion and persistence to push forward and restore a building that would have been easy to give up on. The Ross Lodge is an example of strong civic stewardship commitment by City Light,” said Bernie O’Donnell, director of Utility Support Services.

“This has been fantastic work by the entire team and I want to thank all of the participants that worked on this renovation. Gaining recognition with an award like this is icing on the cake, and all involved should be very proud of this accomplishment,” Power Supply and Environmental Affairs Officer Michael Jones said in expressing his congratulations to the many City Light employees and departments that worked together to ensure the successful completion of the renovation.

 

The renovated Ross Lodge is now being used as an executive conference center.

The awards program is currently in its 24th year, and exists to recognize persons, organizations and projects that have achieved distinction in the field of historic preservation. This year, the ceremony will be held on May 13 in the Columbia Room of the Legislative Building in Olympia. Washington State Historic Preservation Officer Allyson Brooks will be the event speaker. The event coincides with National Historic Preservation Month. The awards are given for preservation efforts that epitomize the spirit of the late Valerie Sivinski, a Tacoma-area architect who became Washington state’s first Capitol conservator.

More information about the award recipients is available at www.dahp.wa.gov, or by contacting Russell Holter of the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation at 360.586.3533 or russell.holter@dahp.wa.gov.

About Seattle City Light

Seattle City Light is the 10th largest public electric utility in the United States. It has some of the lowest cost customer rates of any urban utility, providing reliable, renewable and environmentally responsible power to nearly 1 million Seattle area residents. City Light has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in the nation to achieve that distinction.