Saying goodbye

by Chris Klein

t was with a heavy heart and great reluctance that those of us at San Diego EarthWorks accepted the resignation of Kari Gray last month. For the past four years, Kari has been our sole full-time staff. What she did was just about everything, with excellence.

My first recollection of Kari was during the weeks before EarthFair '93, when she came into the office as a volunteer. She and her husband James, a Scottish national, had just returned from Scotland to San Diego where James had a new job waiting. Kari was interested in doing some volunteer work for the environment, and found us. We were impressed by her volunteer work, and asked her to go on staff, which she did in March '94.

Then, as now, the EarthFair in April was our primary event. Produced entirely by volunteers that changed from year to year, the event organization depended primarily on Carolyn Chase and myself for continuity. Essentially, we were full time volunteers from January through May. And personally, after 4 years, I was starting to wear a little thin.

In the weeks before EarthFair '94, Kari helped lighten the burden, but more importantly she paid close attention to just how we put the event together. By the time EarthFair '95 rolled around, she had it seemed magically off-loaded about 80 percent of the job: volunteer coordinator, exhibitor interface, logistics planning and scheduling. It seemed she was doing the work of about 3 people. By EarthFair '96, I probably could have gone on vacation and the event would have come off just fine.

But more than just duplicating what had been done before, she helped take the event to a new level. Problems that had vexed us for years were solved. Costs were cut and the event became solidly profitable. New features, like theme pavilions and additional entertainment venues, were added. A dedicated vegetarian, she made our Food Court meatless; this move was so successful, the park concessionaire started selling veggie-burgers. She seemed to have memorized details about hundreds of exhibitors volunteers.

All this, of course, speaks only about the EarthFair. Other EarthWorks projects, like the VIP Reception, Silent Auction and restoration projectsalso benefited from her fine hand.

But, alas, all good things come to an end. In March, her husband James accepted a full-time job in Mill Valley, CA. He started the job in May, and Kari joins him this month.

I don't expect that we will find anyone to replace Kari, although we will find someone to do the work.

I'm left with the image of Kari, 6 months pregnant with their first child, riding around in an electric golf cart while managing EarthFair '96. When asked about their child-to-be, she would carefully explain that they planned the pregnancy so that she would be able to manage the fair, and then have as much time with her new son as possible before the next year's event.

Knowing Kari, it figures. We wish her the best of luck in her new life in the Bay Area.

  Chris Klein is a co-founder of San Diego EarthWorks, publisher and editor of the San Diego Earth Times, and is still happy to be out of the computer industry.