When the board of the New Dungeness Light Station went looking for a new general manager, the third in the history of the lighthouse, they wanted someone with experience and expertise.
They found their man. Chad Kaiser, the new G.M,, previously worked for the U.S. Lighthouse Society, which is based at the Point No Point Lighthouse in Hansville.
Kaiser, who grew up in Michigan, said working with lighthouses “wasn’t something I particularly planned on doing. It’s not something I set out to pursue as a career. But I love history and I particularly love maritime history.”
Kaiser worked for the society in San Francisco for one year. In 2008, the society decided to move to a historical lighthouse and soon settled in at the Point No Point Lighthouse.
The society is a nonprofit historical and educational organization serving to educate, inform and entertain those who are interested in lighthouses past and present. Kaiser said the society also dedicates considerable resources to lighthouse preservation, including providing restoration knowledge and some funding for restoration efforts.
Kaiser said he was approached about the job after former NDLS manager Barry Dove died in March 2009. Dove had been part of the initial team that took on the task of maintaining the station when in 1994 the Coast Guard announced plans to abandon it. In 2006, Dove became the first general manager of the station.
Following Dove’s death, Rick DeWitt took over as general manager, “and did an excellent job,” Kaiser said.
Kaiser said the board was seeking someone who would take the job permanently.
In his new role, Kaiser said, “I basically oversee everything that happens at the light station.”
“I don’t do it all,” he said, “but I’m responsible. If it has to be maintained or repaired, either I’ll do it or I’ll find someone who can fix it.”
Kaiser also manages the light station’s popular “keepers” program. The light station is staffed 24 hours a day by New Dungenesss Light Station Association members who serve as volunteer “keepers” at their own expense while serving one-week shifts. “That’s how we maintain the station,” Kaiser said.
The station’s website says membership in the association has grown to “almost 800 family units, comprised of approximately 1,900 individuals.”
Other non-association members also can volunteer to serve as a keeper.
Kaiser noted the light station still functions as a lighthouse, keeping ships safe from Clallam shores.
Steve Reed, who now serves as president of the association, says Kaiser has a very deep knowledge of lighthouses and their history,” and he’s also a very energetic young man.”
Reed said Kaiser’s connections in the field already have paid off, pointing out that Kaiser was able to locate a firm to manufacture a new “vent ball with a spire.”
Like most historical lighthouses, the New Dungeness was for a long time lit by flaming oils; the fumes had to be vented. After 150 years the light station’s vent “was severely corroded,” Reed said. “Chad found a manufacturer who could re-create that ball in cast iron.”
Kaiser also has been able to find a manufacturer to create new lantern windows, Reed said.
The light at New Dungeness was lit for the first time on Dec. 14, 1857. The light station includes the 1904 keeper’s house and a 63-foot lighthouse.
Kaiser took the job as general manager on April 1.