Cutterman calls it a career

Lt. Jim Stoffer of Sequim (right), receives his Certificate of Retirement from Cmdr. Kevin A. Jones of the U.S. Coast Guard, on Friday, Aug. 20, at John Wayne Marina. Sequim Gazette photos by Matthew Nash

Plenty to miss about the Coast Guard, Jim Stoffer says.

But 30 years of service has its drawbacks.

"I won't miss missing birthdays and anniversaries," he says.

After 18 years at sea and another dozen moving from port to port, Stoffer and his family are ready to settle in Sequim.

Stoffer grew up in Idaho and, after a semester in college, looked for another opportunity. He found it in the U.S. Coast Guard, a service in which he had no plans to call a career.

"That four years turned into 10, then 20 ... and all of a sudden 30," he says.

Stoffer said goodbye to that career last weekend in a ceremony at John Wayne Marina, but not to the memories.

Not planning for a career in service

Stoffer was born and raised in Nampa, Idaho, and joined the Coast Guard in 1980. As an enlisted sailor he attained the rank of chief quartermaster and served at nearly a dozen ports or operation centers from Kodiak, Alaska, to Long Beach, Calif., Seattle to North Carolina, Puerto Rico and Honolulu.

He and the family bought a home in Sequim in 2002 but continued to move.

Stoffer said he always expected to return to Sequim and retire.

He was stationed at Port Angeles aboard the Coast Guard cutter Cuttyhunk for a time and in 2005 was promoted to lieutenant. He completed tours as operations officer for patrol boat forces in southwest Asia, was commanding officer aboard the cutter Mustang in Seward, Alaska, and served as the liaison officer to Afloat Training Group Pacific Northwest.

Along the way, Stoffer earned a number of decorations including the Coast Guard Meritorious Service Medal with "O" device (Operational Distinguishing Device, a top Coast Guard medal), Coast Guard Commendation Medal with "O" device and one gold star, Coast Guard Achievement Medal with "O" device and four gold stars, Commandant's Letter of Commendation and others.

But the family feeling that he got from serving is what resounds with Stoffer.

"Because we're such a small service compared to the other services, you really get to know people at your stations, like extended families," he says.

"I got a lot of satisfaction from the work we did. It wasn't just a job, it was a career, a lifestyle."

Time to call it quits

Stoffer says that after three decades, he simply wanted to settle down and spend more time with his wife, Diana, an employee at Wilder Toyota, and daughter Sarah, a junior at Sequim High School.

Instead of more months at sea, Stoffer is serving as club president for Sequim High's Choir Boosters.

"I was ready," Stoffer says. "(I) met everything more than what I had set out to do."

That didn't stop the Coast Guard from testing Stoffer's proverbial waters, calling him the day before his retirement ceremony to see if he might be interested in a promotion.

"They were looking at my record and were going to promote me," he says. "It would have meant another move (but) we love Sequim."

Reach Michael Dashiell at

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