Search begins for parks director

Covington is looking to fill a pair of significant positions at City Hall before the end of this summer.

  • Monday, June 2, 2008 12:10pm
  • News

Covington is looking to fill a pair of significant positions at City Hall before the end of this summer.

City manager Derek Matheson will oversee the hiring process for a new parks and recreation director, while community development director David Nemens will handle the hiring of an economic development manager, a brand new position for the city which is expected to be advertised by May 5.

Salaries for both positions will be funded by the utility tax the city adopted late last year. Local utilities began collecting the tax for the city in February.

The city began advertising early this month for the position of parks and recreation director, which has been vacant for more than a year after the resignation of Dave Erickson, who left to work in Chelan.

In addition to advertising through the Washington Recreation and Park Association (WRPA) and the Association of Washington Cities, Covington planned to distribute a recruitment flyer at WRPA’s annual conference and trade show being April 22-April 25 in Kennewick.

Candidates will be interviewed June 11, and the successful applicant will be offered an annual salary in the range of $91,610 to $116,049.

Noreen Beaufrere, personnel manager for Covington, said the city “is seeking an energetic professional — possibly an ambitious director in a smaller city or a deputy director from a larger city — to recreate (the) parks and recreation department. They must possess outstanding parks planning and grant-writing skills. Equally important, this individual needs excellent communication skills” to help blend “the city’s vision with the desires of the community in the development of” parks, recreational activities and community events.

Beaufrere said the next parks director “should also be capable of forming effective, collaborative partnerships, both internally with other city departments and externally with outside agencies and community groups.”

Due to a budget shortfall and an unsuccessful ballot effort in 2006 to create a special taxing district for parks and recreation, the parks department has been stripped to bare bones, so the focus of the new director will shift.

“The director will perform similar duties to the last director, but with greater emphasis on the parks capital improvement program (applying for grants, acquiring park land, and master planning, designing and building parks) and less emphasis on recreation,” Matheson said. “The City Council feels Covington Community Sports is doing a great job providing a youth athletics recreation program, so council members authorized a small, non-athletics recreation program only.”

Covington Community Sports sprung up as a grassroots effort of residents to provide athletics for kids after the city eliminated those programs in a cost-cutting effort in early 2007.

“It is now necessary for the new parks and recreation director to assess what types of non-athletics recreational programs the city should offer that will enhance, rather than duplicate, what already exists through Covington Community Sports,” Beaufrere said. “Additionally, the director will need to assess and make recommendations on how to improve (Covington Aquatic Center’s) facility, operations, and programs.”

She said emphasis will increase on possible parks and open-space property, as well as the planning, including developing park land already owned by the city.

Beaufrere explained that with the parks director position, community members were invited to review a draft of the city’s recruitment flyer to make sure it “captures the essence of what they feel will best serve the community.”

“For a director-level position, the interview process normally includes several members of the management team, two city staff memberrs from the affected department, and two or three individuals holding positions in other municipalities similar to the position being filled,” she said. “Those individuals are divided among two interview panels that run concurrently, asking different questions separately of each candidate. The city manager visits each as the interviews progress in order to hear responses to select questions.”

At some point during the process, when it is convenient, a separate meet-and-greet session will be arranged with the council, city employees and key community business persons.

Finally, the two interview panels will meet to collectively decide on the recommendation of two top candidates to continue with interviews with Matheson, who will make the final decision in August.

“After several years of fiscal instability in parks and recreation programming,” the city has a budget policy that dedicates 20 percent of the city’s sales tax to the department and a portion of the city’s new utility tax to parks capital improvement projects and a small recreational program, Beaufrere said. “With this newly established stability, we are very optimistic about finding the right person” to be the parks director.

Staff writer Kris Hill can be reached at (425) 432-1209 (extension 5054) and

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