Vancouver hires parks director

New leader currently holds same job in Modesto, Calif.

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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A parks director from Modesto, Calif., has accepted an offer to lead the Vancouver Parks and Recreation Department.

City Manager Eric Holmes said Monday that Julie Hannon will start Dec. 3.

“I’m excited to add Julie Hannon to the city’s leadership team. She has the right skills to lead our hard-working department into an exciting new era,” Holmes said. “As we look ahead to 2014 and beyond, Vancouver’s focus will be on a sustainable plan for Parks and Recreation as a city-focused department, after many years as a shared city/county agency.”

Hannon has 25 years of parks and recreation experience, said Barb Ayers, the city’s spokeswoman. She has a bachelor’s degree in parks and recreation from Western Illinois University and a master’s degree in public administration from Ashford University.

In switching jobs, Hannon will take a pay cut, as she earned $147,053 in 2012 in Modesto and will earn $133,272 a year in Vancouver. California, however, has an income tax, while Washington does not.

She will oversee a smaller staff but be responsible for more parks. In Modesto she has a staff of 112 and 72 parks; Vancouver’s parks and recreation department has 44 full-time equivalent employees and 108 parks.

But while Vancouver has cut the parks staff in half in recent years, worse times could be ahead in Modesto. Voters there will consider a temporary sales tax increase next week and a loss would will be “devastating” to its general fund, resulting in more parks cuts, according to the Modesto Bee.

City-county split

Pete Mayer resigned last year as director of the Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation Department to take a job with Snohomish County, and two interim directors have filled in since his departure.

Earlier this year, county commissioners decided they no longer wanted to contract with the city for parks planning and administration. They plan to make county parks part of the county public works department.

Holmes has said the county’s decision wouldn’t result in immediate layoffs in the parks department, which in addition to the parks also operates 2,138 acres of parkland, 23.4 miles of trail and three community centers.

The three recreation centers combined receive approximately 1.2 million visits annually and provide recreation programs, classes and services for people of all ages and abilities, Ayers said.