Monte Marti, longtime district manager of Snohomish Conservation District, is retiring in August. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Monte Marti, longtime district manager of Snohomish Conservation District, is retiring in August. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The Monte way: Overcoming differences for conservation

After 20 years at the helm of the Snohomish Conservation District, Monte Marti is retiring Aug. 9.

LAKE STEVENS — It’s not uncommon for conservationists, farmers, tribes and other natural resources stakeholders to take opposite sides on environmental issues.

That is, until Monte Marti gets involved.

In his 20-year tenure as the district manager at the Snohomish Conservation District, Marti has built a reputation as a relentless collaborator with an uncanny ability to bring different and often competing groups together.

On Aug. 9, Marti will retire from his position with the district.

“He has been instrumental in bringing the farming community, tribes, and regulatory agencies to the table to collaborate,” said Dan Bartelheimer, president of the Snohomish County Farm Bureau.

Bartelheimer recalled a time when the agriculture community walked away from a county board for sustainable land strategy that was meant to bring together farming and fish interests.

“We were very disillusioned with the group, so soon it had no voice for the ag community,” Bartelheimer said.

So Marti began sitting in on monthly Farm Bureau meetings. He did so for years until finally, the opportunity arose to invite the agriculture community back onto the board.

“Traditionally, ag and fisheries line up on opposite sides and battle,” County Executive Dave Somers said. “That is not Monte’s way.”

Through persistence and patience, Marti has united people from local groups to federal agencies to work toward conserving natural resources.

His path to what he now considers to be his dream job was a winding one.

Growing up, Marti always thought he’d work at the farm his family ran in Eastern Washington. But he studied agricultural economics at Washington State University, where he met his now-wife, Carole.

“She was a city girl from Pasco,” he said.

They married after junior year and ended up both going back to WSU for master’s degrees. After graduating, they went after the same job at Verizon, then GTE, in Everett. Carole got the job.

“Which was the right choice on their end,” he said.

He came to Everett and started working nights at a pizza restaurant.

Wanting to get back to his roots in agriculture, Marti started volunteering at the conservation district in 1983.

“There was an interweaving of my passion for agriculture and natural resources,” he said.

Marti ended up moving into his wife’s role at Verizon after she took another job in 1984, but continued to volunteer with the district throughout his 25-year career there.

In 2010, he applied for the district manager position.

“Life is good. Now I get paid to do what I was willing to do for free,” he said.

In his 20-year tenure at the district, Marti said he’s most proud of the partnerships he’s helped forge.

“And just a sense of hope that if we come together as a community of very diverse people and interests, we can tackle these tough issues,” he said.

Although he’s retiring from the district, Marti said he’ll most likely still be around to champion other conservation efforts.

Outside of that, he’s looking forward to celebrating his 40th wedding anniversary and touring the U.S. on his bicycle.

“I pour my heart into everything I do and I will pour my heart into retirement,” he said.

Julia-Grace Sanders: 425-339-3439; jgsanders@heraldnet.com.

If you go

Celebrate Monte Marti’s retirement from the Snohomish County Conservation District at the annual partnership breakfast from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. Aug. 9 at the Craven Farm in Snohomish. RSVP at snocd.org/celebration.

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