News

Interim park director named

Sally MacLaren-Meuer and her 11-year-old daughter, Carly Meuer, took part in Friday’s protest of the park and rec commissioner’s decision to get rid of Director Jim Shulock. MacLaren-Meuer was appointed interim director Monday. - Jessie Stensland
Sally MacLaren-Meuer and her 11-year-old daughter, Carly Meuer, took part in Friday’s protest of the park and rec commissioner’s decision to get rid of Director Jim Shulock. MacLaren-Meuer was appointed interim director Monday.
— image credit: Jessie Stensland

North Whidbey Park and Recreation District commissioners picked a reluctant interim administrator to replace former director Jim Shulock during a protracted special meeting Monday night.

After a half dozen motions failed, the commissioners finally passed a unanimous measure to appoint Sally MacLaren-Meuer, the head swim coach, as the interim director at a salary of $5,000 per month plus benefits. As part of the motion, MacLaren-Meuer and a couple of the commissioners will meet to hash out her responsibilities as both an interim director and head swim coach.

But even with the big pay increase, MacLaren-Meuer wasn’t happy. She emphasized that she’s worried about the uncertainty of what is expected of her, the possible rough transition after Shulock leaves Wednesday, and how she’ll have time to handle both positions.

“I would really care not to have this job,” she admitted, but added that she’ll run the district in a professional manner for the sake of the pool patrons and the staff.

MacLaren-Meuer, members of the pool staff and several patrons staged a protest outside the pool last Friday because they objected to the decision by three commissioners not to extend Shulock’s contract. MacLaren-Meuer said the staff decided not to close the pool, as originally planned, after the district’s attorney told them they would be breaking the law.

Instead, the protesters quietly waved signs and asked patrons not to swim on that day. “Most of the people supported us, but a few people chose to swim,” MacLaren-Meuer said, “which was fine.”

The meeting Monday night was relatively orderly compared to the last meeting, which descended into unruliness and name-calling after the commissioners didn’t give Shulock a new contract. But there were a few rough spots as there was obvious tension among board members, Shulock and the standing-room-only crowd of pool supporters.

Commissioner Janet Sabalausky, the new chairperson of the board, angrily threatened to call the police and kick people out of the meeting for “snickering.” Commissioner Brien Lillquist, obviously frustrated when several motions to hire MacLaren-Meuer failed, threatened to shut down the pool until a permanent director could be found. This earned him loud jeers from the crowd.

In a parting speech, Shulock warned that the commissioner “have put the district at risk” by not planning out the turnover in leadership. He also bluntly asked the commissioners why his contract was not renewed.

“I need to be aware of my shortcomings for future job resumes,” he said. “I would also like to know when I could expect my written evaluation that you told me would be forthcoming by Friday of last week. I believe it is my right and it is a requirement to furnish this evaluation.”

The commissioners, however, did not respond.

The meeting began with a motion by Commissioner Harvey Prosser to give Shulock a four-month contract as interim director. “Jim has done an adequate job,” Prosser said, “though he has some deficiencies. This will give him time to find a new position and give us time to find a new director.”

Commissioner T.J. Harmon-Fisher, who has also supports Shulock, seconded the motion. It failed after Commissioners Sabalausky, Lillquist and Fred Smyth voted against it.

Then a series of motions to hire MacLaren-Meuer as the interim director also failed.

Smyth made a motion to hire her on an interim basis at Shulock’s salary of $35,000 a year. But MacLaren-Meuer argued that it wouldn’t be fair to pay her the director’s wages for essentially doing two jobs. The commissioners agreed, but had trouble deciding on a fair salary.

Another stumbling block was that Harmon-Fisher said the position should have a defined job description, especially since there are certain functions — like payroll — that MacLaren-Meuer doesn’t know how to do. Prosser, by the way, volunteered to handle the payroll.

Smyth, however, said the director’s job description already exists and MacLaren-Meuer can simply delegate those duties she cannot or doesn’t have time to perform. He said the commissioner shouldn’t micro-manage her by writing out the “minutia” of the position.

Several motions came and went. But finally, after MacLaren-Meuer said she would like her duties clarified, the commissioners unanimously decided to hire her at a $60,000-a-year salary. Her position is on a one-month basis to start with, but a committee — which wasn’t set up — is supposed to bring a longer-term contract before the board sometime in May.

“We’re going to have some rough spots,” Sabalausky said, “but to try to iron everything out tonight would be difficult.”

Sometime in the future the commissioners also plan to start advertising for a permanent district director.

You can reach News-Times reporter Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611.

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