Former Puyallup official will lead parks and recreation temporarily

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

Published:

 

Ralph Dannenberg, a former official with the city of Puyallup, has been hired as the interim director of Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation.

Dannenberg, 64, will start work on Monday and is expected to stay with the job only a few months, according to Vancouver Human Resources manager Bill Kolden. Dannenberg was hired through an executive search firm called Prothman, in Issaquah, which will continue hunting for a permanent parks and recreation director.

Dannenberg was parks and recreation director for the city of Puyallup for 12 years. Before that he worked for the city of Pullman for nearly two decades, including as director of public services. He also served as city manager of Puyallup for two years.

His interim position at Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation will be paid hourly at the rate of $60 per hour, Kolden said -- plus a finding fee for Prothman, Kolden said. The position doesn't come with benefits or leave time. It's expected that Dannenberg, still a Puyallup resident, will live temporarily in Vancouver.

Laura Hudson, the previous interim Parks and Recreation director, long has planned to retire in early 2013, Kolden said.

Eric Holmes, Vancouver's city manager, was unavailable for comment on Friday. But an email he circulated last week said Dannenberg "brings a wealth of parks and recreation experience to the City," and has been an active member of several parks and recreation professional associations.

Dannenberg became city manager of Puyallup in 2010 but was dismissed in the summer of 2012 by a 4-3 vote of the Puyallup City Council. Among the problems, according to The News Tribune newspaper, was Dannenberg's handling of an "unwelcome contact" complaint made by an employee against the mayor of Puyallup. It was also suggested that Dannenberg and newly elected members of the Puyallup City Council had different budget philosophies.

Dannenberg claimed his firing was retaliatory; news reports say he had investigated the mayor's conduct and scolded him in a memo. A Feb. 25, 2013, story in The News Tribune said Dannenberg filed a tort claim last November, and the Puyallup City Council agreed to settle in February, paying him the equivalent of one month of his city salary, or $13,670.

The local parks and recreation director job has been a hot seat in recent years, since layoffs have reduced the department staff by about half. Director Pete Mayer resigned last summer after three years; another hire, Bill Hutsinpiller, accepted the job offer but then changed his mind before starting; and Hudson was already planning to retire when she took the position last summer.