Vancouver-Clark Parks & Recreation Director Pete Mayer said Thursday that he will resign to take a job in Snohomish County.
Mayer, 43, will serve as the deputy director and chief operations officer of the Snohomish Health District. His last day as parks director will be June 22.
Mayer’s three years in his post have coincided with the loss of half the department’s staff due to tremendous budget cuts — a tenure that he said has worn him down.
“On my fourth day of arriving at Vancouver-Clark, I had to make decisions that led to the layoffs of several staff,” Mayer said. “It’s part of the territory. However, the rapid succession and unrelenting nature (of the cuts), I can say, has a tremendous personal toll on me.”
Still, he said he remains immensely proud of the department and of its remaining employees. He touted the department’s ability to recover much of its costs, and he praised the county’s many trails, parks, greenways and recreation centers. He said the Luke Jensen Sports Park will be “an absolute beloved asset.”
He said the department is also able to leverage “a minor amount of general fund subsidy into an enormous amount of benefit.”
Mayer has been instrumental in helping guide the remake of the parks program, including through a Parks Blue Ribbon Commission, and helped draft a parks district levy set to go before voters this fall.
Vancouver, he said, is at a turning point when it comes to its parks and recreation — trying to determine how much citizens want and want to pay — in relation to other services, such as roads and public safety.
“We’re at a threshold of whether we can find it within our means to see if we can provide a balanced community,” he said.
Mayer came to Clark County in April 2009, after leaving a spot as assistant city manager and parks and recreation director in Mercer Island. He earned $129,360 in 2011.
He said his new position in Snohomish will also bring him closer to his children, who live in the Seattle area.
At times, tensions simmered behind the scenes, particularly in relation to cuts made in the department.
But Marc Boldt, chairman of the Board of Clark County Commissioners, said he believes that “throughout, I don’t think anybody ever felt slighted or felt like he didn’t care about them.”
“I think he’s one of the most genuine public servants I’ve ever come across,” Boldt said. “I’ve learned a lot from his leadership style, and I will really miss him.”
Vancouver City Manager Eric Holmes also said he wishes Mayer the best.
“He’s done a phenomenal job navigating through very difficult times at the city,” he said. “We’ve been able to keep together a core set of parks and recreation services with far fewer people and far fewer resources.”
Holmes said that he and County Administrator Bill Barron will work together to find an interim director.
Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542; http://www.twitter.com/col_cityhall; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Columbian staff reporter Stephanie Rice contributed to this story.