EDITORIAL: Park district needs fresh start

The North Whidbey Park and Recreation District is risking its community support because of in-fighting and dissension. This must stop immediately before the continued existence of our public swimming pool is threatened. The pool requires periodic voter approval of a levy for maintenance and operation funding, and that may not happen next time if the elected commissioners can’t set aside their differences and start working for the public good.

Last week in a 3-2 vote, the contract of Parks Director Jim Shulock was not renewed, meaning he will be out of a job at the end of this month. Shulock got involved in the board’s in-fighting, which is not a recipe for longevity for someone who serves a publicly elected body. Good board relations is always the first priority for such a person, be it a school superintendent, city administrator or parks director. Without it, nothing positive can be accomplished. The fractured board is in itself proof that the director was not succeeding in the political part of his job, regardless of how good a maintenance director he may have been.

The district needs a fresh director, someone with experience in parks and recreation and personnel management; someone who can work with all the differing personalities on the board. The commissioners should take whatever time they need to widely advertise the position to find the right person for the job. The position presently pays $35,000 a year, which isn’t enough to attract a qualified director. Increase the pay and find the right person. A premature appointment would only add to the turmoil, when what is needed is someone to lead the healing process.

Meanwhile, the board members themselves have to set aside past differences and renew their pledge to serve the public. It’s ridiculous when a contribution to youth programs offered by the Boys and Girls Club becomes controversial. The fact that it is controversial suggests an extreme lack of leadership coming from the board.

Personal animosities have no place on a public board. Keep your sights set on serving the public and making the best hire possible for the director position. Only if this is accomplished can the reputation of the Parks District be restored before the next levy election.

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