PSRC staffer Mark Gulbranson retiring after 40 years

“It’s been quite a run”

This month PSRC is saying farewell and happy retirement to longtime Deputy Executive Director Mark Gulbranson who has been a fixture at PSRC, leading the agency’s finance, human resources, operations, and administration for decades.

Mark began his career in regional planning as a summer intern in the late 1970s at PSRC’s previous incarnation, the Puget Sound Council of Governments. He was scheduled to start work at Boeing after graduation from Western Washington University in 1980, but an opportunity at PSCOG came up and the rest is history.

“It’s been quite a run – 40 years is a long time. I’m really proud of the work that our organization does,” Mark said.  

Staff retreat in 2013
Staff retreat in 2013

Reflecting on his career at PSRC, Mark said, “I always felt good about going to work.  Once I got there, it was the people that made it a good place to be. I like that the staff at PSRC are passionate and have pride in their work.”

He also expressed appreciation for the elected leaders who devote time and effort to make PSRC successful, noting that “without elected leadership, our membership organization doesn’t work.”

When Mark started at the Council of Governments’ office in Pioneer Square, there were no desktop computers, fax machines or copiers – only landlines, typewriters and a ditto machine that was used to create agendas.

Mark recalls that the agency got a copy machine sometime in the early 1980s, but it didn’t collate or staple. For mailing General Assembly meeting agendas to hundreds of elected officials around the region, it was “all-hands-on deck.” He estimated it took about 8 hours for hand collating, stapling, and taking all of those agenda packets to the post office.

When Mark first started working, staff and members could smoke in the office!  “The smoke-filled board room was a real thing,” Mark recalls, with many large ashtrays on the board room table essential for meetings of the region’s elected officials.   

The majority of his time at PSRC was spent leading finance, administration and operations. But in the early days, he did fill in to pull together the Regional Transportation Improvement Program one year when the transportation department was short-staffed.

He has worked under five different PSRC executive directors: Mart Kask, Curt Smelser, Mary McCumber, Bob Drewel and Josh Brown.  Mark has been around to see many aspects of regional planning evolve, including agency reorganizations, countless board meetings, and the move to PSRC’s current location at 1011 Western Avenue.

Staff retreat 2000
Staff retreat in 2000

In 1990, the first VISION 2020 plan was adopted, and the General Assembly voted to form a new regional planning organization. The Puget Sound Regional Council was created in 1991.  Since then, VISION has been updated three more times, with the most recent update adopted this fall during the pandemic.

PSRC Executive Director Josh Brown notes, “Mark embodies the ethic we have at PSRC, the culture, the commitment to public service and focus on our membership. He has helped make PSRC a wonderful place to work.”

Mark Gulbranson and Bruce Dammeier
Executive Bruce Dammeier and Mark at the General Assembly in 2018.

At the December Operations Committee and Executive Board meetings, elected leaders voiced their appreciation for Mark’s service and wished him well.

King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci, PSRC’s Vice President, said: “It’s been an absolute delight to work with you, Mark. You’ve helped us through difficult things – the pandemic, office changes, all the ways this organization has grown and evolved and kept up with the times and been a leader in making this region a better place.”

“Mark has always shown integrity, professionalism, patience, calm and smarts,” said Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson, chair of the Transportation Policy Board.

“We deeply appreciate your professionalism and institutional knowledge and the formative role you played in creating this organization,” said Executive Bruce Dammeier, PSRC President.

Mark’s plans for retirement include being a grandpa to his two small grandchildren and another one on the way. There will also be some fishing, crabbing, shrimping, and golfing, along with travel when it's safe. Happy trails, Mark!