Lewis leaving parks post for California

You can go home again. If you’re lucky, there’s a job waiting. Mom, too.

Citing family needs and the chance to return to his hometown, Dave Lewis has accepted a job as director of recreation for the city of Arcadia, Calif., and will leave his post as Bainbridge Island Park and Recreation District director in March.

“It’s a personal motivation to take the job, more than a professional one,” said Lewis, who has served as the island’s park district director since 1998.

Lewis is the second top Bainbridge public official to announce his departure this week. Tuesday, Police Chief Bill Cooper announced his retirement from public service to take a position with Microsoft (see sidebar).

Lewis was born and raised in Arcadia, a Los Angeles suburb of 53,000 near Pasadena, and participated in city recreation programs there as a youth. He began his career in recreation administration in 1969, with the park department of neighboring El Monte, Calif.

An “only child,” Lewis was encouraged to apply for the Arcadia post in December by his mother, who turns 80 next month and has been battling cancer. He was offered the job after recent interviews, and informed the park board this week of his decision to take the post.

“I kind of need to be closer to home,” Lewis said.

Dane Spencer, board chair, called Lewis “a talented man who has achieved many significant goals for the park district.”

“We are going to sorely miss him,” Spencer said.

Said commissioner Dave Shorett, who served on the board that selected Lewis for the district directorship: “I truly hate to see the guy go.”

Lewis joined the district in 1998, following the retirement of Chuck Field. He came from the city park department in Astoria, Ore., where during a three-year tenure he oversaw development of a $4.2 million community aquatics center funded through a local bond election.

That experience was attractive to the Bainbridge park board, which had seen its own pool levy fail repeatedly but hadn’t given up hope. The next year, island voters finally approved a bond issue, and the $5.5 million Don Nakata Pool opened in December 2001.

Beyond that project, Lewis has overseen significant growth throughout the Bainbridge district, in terms of dollars, park holdings and program offerings.

The district worked with the Bainbridge Island Land Trust to acquire the 40-acre Blakely Harbor Park; opened two new ball field complexes, one at Sands Road and the other on Phelps Road; opened a skate park and roller hockey rink; worked with a community group for construction of the KidsUp playground; and expanded classes and cultural offerings.

In 1998, the district operated on a budget of $2.25 million per year; five years later, the budget is $4.05 million. That growth, Lewis said, reflects the laundry list of needed projects he inherited when he took the job.

“None of this stuff was to attract more people,” he said. “It was done to deal with the people who were already here.”

Lewis said he was particularly proud of the the Sands Road project. While estimates for the new ball field complex were $800,000, the district enlisted volunteer earthmovers and a naval construction “Seabees” battalion, bringing the project in for about $350,000.

“That’s achievement to me, when you can build a facility and really stretch the public dollar,” Lewis said.

Park commissioners have yet to settle on a plan to fill the $89,000-per-year position. Spencer said the board may enlist a “headhunter” and take the search national.

Board members must also fill a hole in their own ranks, following the resignation of Daryle Schei last month. Six candidates applied for the position, and the board will conduct interviews next week.

Schei’s successor is expected to be named at the Feb. 27 board meeting.

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